Tochinoshin Bento Box: The Tachiai Review

Tochinoshin Bento Box at Kokugikan
A man hungry for Ozeki status… and ratatouille.

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?

Tochinoshin Bento Box

Contents

  • 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
  • Ratatouille
  • 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.

Tochinoshin Bento Umeboshi

Umeboshi

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!

Tochinoshin Bento Box

Main course

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.

Tochinoshin Bento Box

Sides

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

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!

Takakeisho’s Bento Box: A Tachiai Review

Takakeisho's Bento Box at Kokugikan
The Takakeisho Bento Box

The last day that I visited Kokugikan during the recent Natsu honbasho was actually also the first day I had ever had the fortune of sitting in one of the “masu” boxes on the ground floor. It felt appropriate to celebrate the moment by engaging in one of the time-honored sumo and uniquely Japanese experiences: purcashing a proper bento box for lunch and enjoying a meal while watching some feisty lower division matches.

Given that Natsu was the first basho following the promotion of Takakeisho to Ozeki, it was a good moment to explore the Takakeisho bento box. As covered previously on the site, there are bento boxes for sale which contain selections from all of the Ozeki and Yokozuna (as well as some other generic boxes). This also means, that following the demotion of Tochinoshin to Sekiwake before the Natsu basho, that the previously available Tochinoshin bento was no longer available (and presumably, as the man himself resumes Ozeki duties, will be making a return for Nagoya).

Takakeisho Bento Box Interior
Takakeisho’s bento is rich with both flavour and detail

The Takakeisho bento included the following:

  • Umeboshi rice with black sesame seeds
  • Katsu pork with sauce and mustard
  • Soy sauce egg hard boiled
  • Tempura thing which seemed to be a fish cake
  • Broccoli and corn
  • Mushrooms (buried under the egg – they really pack a lot of stuff in there)
  • Carrot cut into the shape of a flower

At ¥1150, it’s an insane bargain (as much food is at sumo), especially by western standards. The box feels like it would easily be a $20+ package here in the States.

It should be pointed out that if you want to get your hands on one, then you’d better arrive well before Juryo: all of the sekitori bento typically sell out on a normal day at the basho, and the new nature of the Takakeisho box and popularity of its curator meant that his were flying off the shelves quicker than usual. A further pro tip for our readers: if you’re seated on the ground floor and all of the bento have sold out, more may be available in the gift and snack stands on the second floor of Kokugikan.

Takakeisho has done a great job on the whole of choosing very attractive – especially for sumo – and filling ingredients. As a very hearty bento, I actually think it is a box that would be very suitable especially for the Hatsu basho in January.

Katsu, Tempura and Egg inside Takakeisho's Bento Box
Beside the katsu and underneath the perfectly cooked egg, delicious mushrooms are revealed

Let’s get into the taste. The dried marinated fish element is probably better suited to the start of the meal. And if we’re talking tactics, I’d probably eat this from the left, the right then the center.

The broccoli and corn were surprisingly flavorful – moist and incredibly well seasoned, very peppery. These were among the standout items of the dish. Conversely, if I have one complaint, it would be that the rice was somewhat cold and hard, although I don’t know that that can be helped in the bento format. The egg was extremely delicious and a perfect caramel shade.

It was a bit a bit early in the day for me to imbibe when I was eating it, but Takakeisho’s bento would be a very nice accompaniment for any beer. The tempura item was a bit bland, but the mustard packet helped.

Four very generous cuts of katsu were included, and the accompanying sauce was very rich. I recommend using it sparingly.

No wonder Takakeisho came back early from kyujo! if I knew this was at Kokugikan…

Tachiai’s Rating: ⚪️⚪️⚪️⚪️⚫️

Eating Sumo: Which Rikishi Has the Best Lunch?

kisenosatoboxlunch
Photo by the author, pixelation by iPhone 7

The last time I visited Ryokogu Kokugikan, the lunch selections were named according to the various sumo ranks – “Yokozuna Box,” “Ozeki Box,” etc. But today, I went to the hallowed stadium for day 2 of the Hatsu-basho, and found that the bento selections had been named after some of our nearest and dearest superstars.

So, for a bit of fun, let’s run through each of the selections, and then you can vote for the rikishi with the best bento at the bottom (EDITED: all of the poll embeds were breaking so just leave your selection in the comments). All of these bento boxes are the same price, so your choice strictly comes down to the contents, and the descriptions are more or less verbatim as they are presented in English on the menu. If you want to be cheeky, feel free to create a menu for another rikishi’s bento in the comments.

Takayasu

  • “Dried pickled sour Japanese plum on the rice” (Umeboshi)
  • Mackerel in miso sauce
  • Chicken nanban
  • Lotus root seafood scissors
  • “Cut the cooked kelp”
  • Pickles marinated with soy sauce
  • Boiled mixed beans
  • Cherry tomato

Goeido

  • “Dried pickled sour Japanese plum on the rice” (Umeboshi)
  • Grilled beef
  • Beef croquette
  • “The spitted cutlet of pork”
  • Potato salad
  • Cherry tomato
  • Japanese style omelette
  • Kinpira burdock root

Kisenosato

  • “Dried pickled sour Japanese plum on the rice” (Umeboshi)
  • Salty mix of chicken and Japanese leek
  • Mushroom marinade (Marinated mushroom?)
  • Boiled egg
  • “Food boiled and seasoned: Radish, Carrot, Konjac, Shiitake mushroom, Japanese butterbur, Taro”
  • Honey pickled plum
  • Meat ball

Kakuryu

  • “Dried pickled sour Japanese plum on the rice” (Umeboshi)
  • Sirloin pork cutlet
  • Beefsteak
  • Boiled egg
  • Boiled vegetables: Carrot, Potato, Pumpkin, Broccoli
  • Pork sausage
  • Cherry tomato
  • Boiled mixed beans
  • Pickled vegetables

Hakuho

  • “Dried pickled sour Japanese plum on the rice” (Umeboshi)
  • Deep-fried chicken with Japanese leek sauce
  • Deep-friend Chinese style dumpling
  • Boiled egg
  • Boiled vegetables: Carrot, Potato, Pumpkin, Broccoli
  • Cherry tomato
  • Boiled mixed beans
  • “Stir-fry shrimp in chilli sauce”