Chanko: Meaning of the Japanese Word

When we Japanese hear the word “Chanko (ちゃんこ)”, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind would be the staple hot pot dish of sumo wrestlers “Chanko Nabe (ちゃんこ鍋)”.

Although the term Chanko has become almost synonymous with Chanko Nabe, I guess many people don’t know the original meaning.

Actually, I was among them and wondered what Chanko means when I looked up the variety of Nabe (Japanese hot pots) online yesterday.

The Meaning of Chanko

Chanko Nabe (ちゃんこ鍋)Chanko Nabe

So I researched that as well and found several articles answering the question.

Among others, this one, where a former sumo wrestler is answering the question, is informative and trustworthy.

According to his story, Chanko is not limited to Chanko Nabe, but it is the generic term for dishes served to sumo wrestlers.

In terms of the origin of the word Chanko, there are several theories, and representative examples are

  • “Chan (ちゃん)”, which is an archaic Japanese word for “father”, refers to an Oyakata (stable master), while “Ko (こ)”, which can mean “children”, refers to his Deshi or disciples.
  • Chanko derives from the Chinese iron pot called “Cheko (チェーコウ)” that sumo wrestlers used when they visited Nagasaki (in the Edo period).
  • Chanko derives from the sumo wrestler in charge of cooking that the 19th Yokozuna (sumo grand champion) Hitachiyama called “Chankou (ちゃん公)”.

(Reference Pages:, Wikipedia ちゃんこ鍋 )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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