New Year's Chanko

Tachiai Chanko Ingredients

明けましておめでとうございます。良いお年を。

For our New Year’s Eve dinner this year, my wife made chanko! Chanko is the core of sumo cuisine. However, there’s not one stock recipe. Ours featured shrimp, sausages, chicken meatballs, shiitake and shimeji mushrooms, and assorted vegetables on maroni- noodles, served in a seafood broth. In a special move, she also included mochi kinchaku (purse).

The mochi purse version of chanko

Shiitake mushrooms are probably the most famous variety of Japanese mushroom, a giant container of which is usually presented to the yusho winner. Fitting, then, that it was the first mushroom I ever ate…in my 20s. I had been afraid of those button mushrooms one finds in salads and on pizzas, as if all had been irradiated in Chernobyl. They just seem so, plain. I became much more open to trying new things when I lived in Japan, perhaps because every time anything was prepared, it was done to the best of the cook’s ability.

So, when I tried my first shiitake (the mushrooms with dark, broad tops) I was surprised that it tasted good. I wouldn’t say “great” but certainly edible. That opened me to at least trying more types of mushrooms. I don’t like enoki. They’re little, thin, white mushrooms with tiny tops, and usually doused in butter. They’re certainly thinner than these shimeji mushrooms, which I found to be the best part of this chanko – even better than the yummy sausages and meatballs.

This was the first time I ever ate a purse. I did not know this was a thing until now. The outside is agedofu, that horrible stuff that they sometimes fill with sushi rice at rather disreputable establishments. Here, it was filled with sticky mochi…and not much better. Maybe since it had been boiled, the texture wasn’t as revolting as when it’s filled with too-hard and too-sour sushi rice. The mochi inside was quite good…but not as good as agemochi…which I suddenly need right now. Overall, tonight’s chanko was a fantastic warm-up for tomorrow’s osechi which I will bring to you tomorrow.

Have a Happy New Year!

97th National University Sumo Championship

While sumo fans wait on pins and needles for Grand Sumo action to begin next weekend in Fukuoka, Japan’s National University Sumo Championship took place in Osaka. Successful wrestlers at this stage often become successful wrestlers on the professional level with the Champions granted privileged entry into Makushita, makushita tsukedashi, upon turning pro. Current wrestlers taking this path from Uni-Yokozuna to Jr. Sekitori include Endo, Ichinojo, and Aki-basho yusho winner, Mitakeumi. (I’m making up the Junior Sekitori term because they’re not immediately Sekitori but just outside.)

The big story coming out of Osaka is that the yusho winner was a first year (freshman) student-athlete, Yasuteru Nakamura from Nippon Sports Science University. He defeated Koshiro Tanioka, with a dominating yorikiri. Last year’s champion, Yota Kanno was knocked out in the first round. Any relation to Yoko Kanno is unconfirmed, but the need to knock a little harder is undeniable. Regardless, keep an eye out for these talented young men to be highly sought-after recruits and to appear on a banzuke in the near future.

According to the Mainichi Shimbun, this was the first time in 29 years that a freshman won a Championship. The last time there was a freshman University Yokozuna was Luis Ikemori for Takeshoku University in 1990. Ryuko, also known as Ryudo when he reached his peak rank in Juryo, was also notable for being the first foreign-born wrestler, from Brazil, to be granted the makushita tsukedashi privilege.

In team competition, Nihon University won the title for the first time in four years from Mitakeumi’s alma mater, Toyo University. Jokoryu and Mitoryu are products of the Nihon University program. Nakamura’s Nippon Sports Science University finished tied for third, and they count Hokutofuji among their graduates. These three universities have had historically strong sumo programs, with one of these three teams winning the title in each of the last nine years.

After the Kyushu basho, eyes will turn back to Kokugikan in Tokyo for the 68th National Amateur Sumo Championship, a title won by Yago and the fore mentioned Mitakeumi, Mitoryu and Endo, as well as Daishomaru, Yoshikaze, and Takamisakari. The year Endo won, Shodai picked up the jun-yusho and Mitakeumi and Hokutofuji were semi-finalists.

Musashigawa-beya Beppu

In preparation for the Kyushu tournament next month in Fukuoka, Musashigawa beya has moved its training camp (合宿 – gasshuku) to Beppu, a nearby city popular for its onsen.

Meanwhile, just before dinner on the East Coast of the US, enjoy some food porn courtesy of KONISHIKI.

Hiroshima-based Fans: Do You Want To Do Sumo?

Raise your hands if you wish you had a chance to try sumo! Hiroshima University’s sumo club is putting on sumo events that Tachiai readers may be interested in. On October 16, they are holding a tournament for international students and then on the 29th they are holding one open to everyone. So often, we just read about sumo. Here’s your chance to DO IT.

Oo! Oo! Pick me!! Pick ME!!

There will be separate male and female sections. Bring a shirt, shorts and a towel! There will be prizes for top wrestlers. If you don’t want to wrestle and just want to watch, it sounds like this will be a great opportunity to see the next generation of university competitors!

If you’re following the Jungyo dates and schedule, the event on the 29th is two days after the Jungyo’s final date in Hiroshima. For those of you in Western Japan, that sounds like an amazing few days. The final three days of the tour are in different areas of Hiroshima prefecture. It’s quite the opportunity to see your favorite wrestlers (unless your favorite is on the kyujo list) and then actually compete!

If you do go, and you’re interested in writing up your experience for a guest post on Tachiai, let me know. If you have more questions about the event, reach out to the Hiroshima Daigaku Sumo Bu @hirodaisumou as in the Tweets above. I wish we had this opportunity 15 years ago in Tokyo! I think this is nearer Bruce’s old stomping grounds but I would have thumbed a ride from Tokyo to give it a try. Good luck!