How to Eat Like a Sumo Wrestler – Chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋) in Japan

Ryōgoku

Ryōgoku in Tokyo

Sumo wrestling is one of the coolest sports in the world.

Eating a lot is mandatory.

Among the many things to do in Tokyo (video), even though I wasn’t there during fight season, is visit the main sumo stadium and area of Tokyo known as Ryōgoku, home to numerous sumo stables and sumo restaurants.

Sumo wrestling

Sumo food map

At the Ryōgoku Kokugikan, the main sumo stadium where most tournaments take place in Tokyo, there’s a small and free sumo museum which you can browse through.

The museum mostly includes a series famous photographs of famous sumo wrestlers, and a series of sumo models that displayed different winning techniques and methods.

But then I noticed the Ryogoku map at the information desk, and in the brochure were about 20 different sumo restaurants listed, most serving a sumo food dish known as chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋).

As you can imagine, I was thrilled.

巴潟

Outside of Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟)

After walking around Ryogoku for about 30 minutes and trying to decide which restaurant to eat at, we came to the conclusion to eat at Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟).

It looked quiet on the outside, but the waving sumo flags to mark the entrance, begged me to enter.

Sumo wrestling food in Japan

Sumo restaurants are like museums at the same time

Opening the doors I was immediately pleased to see all the dedication to sumo wrestlers, the signs and pictures, and everything was sumo – there were even quite a few photos of famous wrestlers and also their giant hand prints.

My excitement for eating like a sumo wrestler had me licking my lips.

Chanko Tomoegata

Menu at Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟)

Though it didn’t look too full from the outside (there wasn’t a line waiting outside like at many Tokyo restaurants), the upstairs, where the dining area was located, was full.

We had to wait about 15 minutes, as my stomach growled.

ちゃんこ鍋

Chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋)

Chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋) in Tokyo

Often known as a sumo wrestlers food in Japan, chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋) is really quite a healthy mixture of meat and vegetables in a huge hot pot.

It can include a type of meat, usually pork or beef, tofu, vegetables like napa cabbage, carrots, and mushrooms. Really it’s just like a huge delicious melting pot of protein and vegetables.

Sumo wrestlers often eat chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋) in insanely huge portion sizes, as prescribed for their weight gaining diet.

The giant chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋) sumo pot first caught my eye on the menu, and I saw that it cost 2,940 ($28.85). So since it was Ying and I, I thought that would be great.

Unfortunately, the waitress informed us that that price was per person… a little out of my lunchtime budget…

sumoheyafu higawari chanko

I ordered the “sumoheyafu higawari chanko”

So she pointed us to the lunch special, I guess it was just a smaller batch of chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋) known as sumoheyafu higawari chanko, served in a bowl, not in a pot with heat on the bottom. But the price worked better for us.

I decided to order the one on the bottom with the extra sashimi side dish.

eating sumo food

Hot tea from a sumo cup

We sipped hot tea from sumo cups as we waited for the food to arrive.

I could hardly control my excitement. Eating is of course my favorite activity in the world, so eating like a sumo wrestler, I couldn’t wait!

sumo food in Japan

Beautiful platter of food!

Our friendly smiling waitress took a bow and then set before us our sumo meal platters.

Just like all food in Japan, it was a beautiful assortment of dishes, each divided appropriately with all decoration having a purpose.

The soup was piping hot in a clay bowl, and the steamy aroma was heavenly.

Chankonabe

Chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋) – hot pot in miso broth

I headed straight for the chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋), and as we observed other Japanese people in the restaurant, they first took the small bowl and added some of the soup to the small bowl before eating. Nobody was eating straight from the main bowl – not sure if it was because of how hot it was, or if that’s the respectful way to eat it, I’m assuming the latter.

So we followed suit.

The broth was miso soup based, but it was the most pleasant miso soup I’ve ever had, far far different from that miso soup you’ve had at a cheap Japanese take-out.

It was rich and almost buttery, yet clear. It tasted like bones had been boiling for years to create such a sensational flavor – and that might actually be true, as soups like this in Japan are often made from a mother pot of stock that boils continuously.

Best food in Tokyo

Everything was delicious

Inside the soup were strips of pork, a lot of napa cabbage, some mushrooms, tofu, and some gelatin squiggly things, which I had no clue what they were, until some kind people on the YouTube video told me they are known as konjac gel in Japan.

It was so extremely delicious, plus since it was cold outside, nothing felt better than a piping hot flavorful soup.

Potato croquette

Potato croquette

My platter also came with rice, a few small salads, a potato croquette, which tasted to me like deep fried creamy gravy, and sashimi.

sashimi

Side dish of sashimi

I made the decision to get the meal combo with the extra side dish of sashimi, at the last minute of ordering. Reason being, just like the tempura, all meals are better with some extra raw fish in Japan.

It was the medium fatty kind of tuna, one of my favorites, slightly diced up and topped with a handful of spring onions.

Lime sorbet

Lime sorbet

After finishing off our delicious meals, we then enjoyed a scoop of lime sorbet which came with the lunch special.

Chankonabe Tokyo

Inside the restaurant

Our chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋) sumo meal was pretty good size, and we were definitely full and happy after finishing everything, but in reality it was probably just an appetizer for a real sumo wrestler.

It was an extremely fun experience to eat like a sumo wrestler, and if you have the time when you’re in Tokyo, you should enjoy it too.

Here’s the video of our meal…

(If you can’t see the video, watch it here: http://youtu.be/7KcFGjAUgcU)

There are a bunch of chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋) sumo restaurants in Ryogoku, but if you want to go to this same place, here’s the info:

Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟)

Website: http://www.tomoegata.com/
Price: 1,890 JPY ($18.60), but without the sashimi it was 1,260 JPY ($12.40)

Here’s the map, click on “Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟).”

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Comments

  1. says

    Ah! I missed this area completely while I was there! Though I doubt I can eat like a Sumo wrestler in any case!! Must have been some experience though!

  2. Daniel says

    Mark you’re great! Thanks for your passion and videos that are inspiring! You inspired me so much that i will go in tokyo from 26dec to 15 jan… The plan is huge but i will try to do all the stuff!

  3. Felicia says

    Your recommendations on food were superb. My bf and I are having a great time exploring food in Tokyo. If he didn’t find your blog/youtube videos, we are likely to be eating ramen and omu rice everyday for our entire trip in Japan!

    Chanko Tomoegata is really really good, so good we cleared everything, including the soup.

    Thanks for all your food recommendations! We also highly recommend Mutekiya for people who enjoy very good ramen. We have been there twice, tried a total of 4 items on their menu. Not disappointing at all. Queue is quite scary though – waited 30 minutes the first time, 80 minutes the second time.

    • says

      Hey Felicia, thank you so much for the encouraging words, glad you are having a wonderful tim in Japan. Thanks for the tips about Chanko Tomogata, and for recommending Mutekiya. Keep enjoy the food!

  4. YY says

    hi mark, can check, for the sumo chanko serving, it is says one person meaning no sharing is allow? what if i have 3 pax, do i have to order 3 portion?

    • Felicia says

      Hey YY, my bf and I just went there a few days ago. The portions are charged by per person so if you have 3 people, you’ll be sharing 1 pot of soup, and you’ll have to order 3 portions of food.

      Also, you might want to try making a reservation online so that you will definitely get a table the day you arrive. They have 2 shops (opposite each other) and I think 1 side is for the ones with reservations and the other is for walk-in. We had a reservation so we got to our table very quickly.

      Although the reservation link is in Japanese, a simple google translate can help you with the reservation. Once they receive your reservation request, you will receive an email from them confirming your table.

      Most staff there can speak simple English, we even had a good conversation with the serving staff at our table.

      You may wish to note that the price for dinner can go about 1.5x – 2x the price of lunch, based on Mark’s post of his lunch prices. We paid around ¥7400 for 2 pax during dinner.

      Hope this helps.

        • Felicia says

          Hey Mark, omg you replied on my post!!! I forgot something important in my earlier post: lunch and dinner menu are different. My bf tried ordering what you had, but he couldn’t find it on the menu given to us.

          YY, if you’re not ordering the same pot of soup (I believe it was the first page of the menu given to us), you might end up with individual set meals. Do note the table is really small and for the hotpot, the waiter serves the food by putting it into the soup for you, so you only add in the meat on your own. They check your table from time to time and inform you when your pot is ready so you don’t really have to worry about the food already in the pot being overcooked.

          Best part: THEY HAVE ENGLISH MENU!!! Just ask for it when they bring you to your table!! Hope this helps! Have fun in Japan!

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