Longtime readers of the site will know that I find food to be an integral part of the sumo adventure. Of course, we all know that chankonabe forms the backbone of the rikishi diet, and many folks are aware that yakitori is mass produced at Kokugikan as a staple of the sumo-going experience.
But the Ozeki and Yokozuna bento boxes which are sold at honbasho are extremely popular as well – and sell out most days of the tournaments. The NSK is rigid and brutal when it comes to their application of the rights afforded the high rankers and their bento: Takakeisho’s recent injury-driven demotion from Ozeki meant that there was no Takakeisho bento for sale at the Aki basho, although this will surely return in November now that he has sealed his re-promotion. And despite the overwhelming desire for all things Kisenosato, the 72nd Yokozuna’s bento was taken off the shop lists following his intai.
With this in mind, and seeing the declining state of the health of Ozeki Tochinoshin, I had to try the Tochinoshin bento box before it was too late. He will of course get a chance to put this back on shelves (and restore his rank) with 10 wins in Fukuoka – but in case that failed to transpire, this particular box could be lost to the annals of sumo history.
Let’s crack it open, shall we?
- Umeboshi (or as it’s listed on the menu, “dried pickled sour Japanese plum on the rice”)
- “Sauce of beef shiri served with paprika and kidney beans”
- Pork roll of asparagus and cheese
- Tatsuta fried Pacific saury
- Minirare omelette
- Cherry tomato
- Macaroni salad
At ¥1150, this is, like most food items for sale in the Kokugikan, a very good deal. $11 in an American stadium probably wouldn’t get you half as much food, and it is a very filling meal.
This was solid. The rice was actually good, it was very fluffy and a good temperature. I felt it was of a higher quality than in the last rikishi bento I reviewed, from Takakeisho. Perhaps our reviews have been read!
Umeboshi is normally shaped as a bed of rice with the dried sour ume in the middle, and typically made to resemble the Japanese flag. From a creative standpoint, perhaps they missed a trick here by not using 4 ume and attempting the Georgian flag as reference to Tochinoshin’s nationality. That would have certainly made it special!
I only knew the beef (located at the top of the above photo) was beef at first because of the sign – it looked to me like the odd sort of damp excess fried parts of chicken karaage. Pulling it apart revealed more beef-forward contents. It was good and flavorful, if a little strange. I think I prefer chicken to beef in this format.
The fried Pacific saury (bottom right) was surprisingly delicate in nature, and moist: a really good bite. It was served with ponzu sauce on top. It did, however, contain very small, edible bones.
The rolled pork katsu (bottom left) was much of a muchness. I don’t know that I really need cheese in my katsu. I wouldn’t say a massive fan of asparagus but given that this bento was a little low on vegetable options, it was good for them to slot it in.
The macaroni salad choice was very successful. Mixed with a healthy dose of kewpie mayo, the carrots, corn and pasta offered a fresher, sweeter bite.
I would have left out the “minirare omelet” – the fluffy presentation was very inviting but the odd flavour left a lot to be desired. I’ve eaten a lot of tamagoyaki in my day but this lacked the sweetness that I was looking for as a complement to many of the heavier proteins.
I felt the ratatouille was surprisingly good. It was extremely flavorful, and while I thought it was kind of a bizarre choice for a bento, it was an inspired and well seasoned choice. Four fish/meat offerings felt a bit heavy handed, and I think the box might have benefited from moving the ratatouille centre stage and dropping the beef or katsu in favour of another lighter option.
Overall Tochinoshin’s bento was much like the man himself: hearty. It’s a filling box and a great value, but I wouldn’t call it a standout when compared to the others on offer at this level of competition. The biggest remaining question is: will it be back on the shelves in 2020? Perhaps this is one of the only meals in the world that’s going to require a good knee to make.
With Takayasu now the kadoban Ozeki in the Fukuoka basho, we’ll look forward to examining his bento in the next tournament!
7 thoughts on “Tochinoshin Bento Box: The Tachiai Review”
As I sit on a mound of earth in my hovel in the forest, gnawing on acorns, elm bark and crow feathers, this box looks mighty tasty to me. Of course, even if I were dining at a 3-star Michelin restaurant it would still look good because it’s got the word “TOCHINOSHIN” on it!
We tried to get a Tochinoshin bento last January but alas all the Ozeki and Yokozuna bento had been sold out.
We’ll be there again this coming January so fingers crossed we get a chance for a Tochinoshin bento then…
Excellent! Come say hi if you see any of the Tachiai folk at the basho – I’m sure I’ll be around.
Perhaps you’ll get to sample a Mitakeumi bento by then!
I think the coverage on NHK should start to reference “10 wins to get his bento box back”!
Josh, for those of us with less knowledge about Japanese food, could you describe in a little more detail what some of these dishes are? It’s very interesting!
Sure! I’ll take this feedback on board when doing future posts as well
I’ll take a miss on the beef because I wasn’t sure about the application of that generally
Umeboshi is a staple dish, usually a bed of white rice with an ume or sour plum on top, which recreates the look of the Japanese flag. You can mix the plum in with the rice to add a tart flavouring to the rice.
The pork roll came in fried breading, essentially it’s just a rolled up slice of meat with asparagus and cheese filling.
Pacific saury is a very popular fish – in the western world this might be called a mackerel pike. This had been lightly fried and there were two pieces with a small dollop of ponzu sauce on top.
The minirare omelette I think was an attempt at replicating tamagoyaki which is popular a rolled egg dish, where the egg/mirin/sweet soy sauce mixture is rolled in the pan and stirred until it reaches a fluffy consistency. Tamago is typically the ending in a sushi course for example, and mastering the preparation of tamagoyaki can take years. However, I found the taste here to be less successful.
The ratatouille was a Japanese take on the western dish, as was the macaroni salad.