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asahi - Sumo meal now what the petite eat

Sumo meal now what the petite eat


Asahi Shimbun July 6, 2000 

OSAKA-A traditional meal in the sumo world is finding a place in the hearts
and stomachs of a growing legion of women. 

A new wave of female diners are opting for the nutrient-rich
``chanko-nabe'' because they see it as a healthy meal and a good way to
augment a diet. 

Gomasuri Chanko is a restaurant in Osaka's Tenjinbashi district that
targets young women, which makes it distinct from most other chanko
restaurants. There are neither handprints of popular sumo wrestlers nor a
list of latest sumo rankings displayed on its walls. 

A signboard, ``CYANKO,'' is placed outside in front of the restaurant. 

Inside, jazz music plays in the background-unusual for most chanko
restaurants-and the shop is filled with laughing women. 

The owner, Chuichiro Serihara, 52, said he opened the restaurant two years
ago with a hope of attracting women.

His gamble paid off as about 60 percent of the customers on weekdays,
including salaried workers and college students, are women in their 20s and
30s. Serihara also operates a second chanko restaurant in the neighborhood. 

About eight years ago, when the ``Waka-Taka'' (Wakanohana and Takanohana)
sumo brothers drew national attention, customers of Serihara's chanko
restaurant were male company workers who dropped in after long hours in the
office or groups of middle-aged men who visited with their favorite bar

Then came the ``motsu-nabe'' boom when a pot containing animal intestines
and green onions became popular. That, he said, must have helped many women
become interested in nabe (hot-pot) dishes. 

Chanko-nabe contains various vegetables, meats, seafood and tofu, and is
traditionally cooked by young wrestlers as a part of their sumo stable

A big pot of chanko is shared by all members of each stable, starting with
older, higher-ranking wrestlers and moving down to those with lower
rankings. Each stable has its own chanko-nabe recipe that has been handed
down from generation to generation. 

It is believed that chanko-nabe provides sufficient fiber, vitamins, iron
and calcium from seafood, tofu and vegetables such as Japanese radish and
Chinese cabbage. What's more, it contains far fewer calories than most
people think. 

Edosawa, a nationwide chain of chanko restaurants, has added a new version
of chanko-nabe, ``buta kimuchi chanko,'' which uses pork and Korean
kimchee. The restaurant has also put the calorie level of each chanko dish
on the menu to assist women who are on a diet. 

Edosawa officials said their chief purpose is to attract more women to
replace male customers who are curbing their wining-and-dining activities
amid the current economic slowdown. 

In many chanko restaurants, more than half of the customers are now women. 

A good example is ``Shitakubeya'' (sumo dressing room) in Osaka's Umeda
entertainment district. On weekends, women sometimes exceed 80 percent of
the restaurant's customers, an official said. 

``Chanko Ichiban'' in Kobe's Sannomiya shopping district boasts a clientele
that is about 40 percent women. 

``I always thought that chanko-nabe is a fatty dish because it is for sumo
wrestlers,'' said Kiyomi Segawa, a 29-year-old nurse from Kobe's
Higashi-Nada Ward who came to the restaurant with her friends. ``I now
think it is a healthy meal because it contains a lot of vegetables,'' she

Many young sumo wrestlers today say they are not fond of chanko-nabe.

In March during the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament held in Osaka's Nanba
district, about 20 sumo wrestlers a day visited a McDonald's near the sumo
wrestling venue to eat hamburgers. 

``I don't like chanko-nabe because it smells fishy. So I eat hamburgers and
foods I purchase at convenience stores as snacks,''said a 20-year-old
jonidan-class wrestler carrying a bag of hamburgers. 

When Dr. Kyoko Honda, 51, taught proper diet methods to Tokitsukaze stable
wrestlers three years ago, she was surprised to learn they were very picky
about what they ate. 

A lecturer at the Japan Women's College of Physical Education's junior
college division, she discovered that sumo wrestlers often preferred snack
foods and hamburgers over chanko-nabe. 

A Hanaregoma stable tanimachi (patron) who runs a construction company in
Osaka's Yodogawa Ward laments that young wrestlers do not eat the
nutritious sardine fishballs found in chanko-nabe. 

``Wrestlers used to love to eat fish in the simmering pot,'' he said.