Giant Hakuta Reveals Behind-the-Scenes Details of the “Heisei Gluttony Boom | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Giant Hakuta Reveals Behind-the-Scenes Details of the “Heisei Gluttony Boom

A direct interview with the legendary food fighter who was once called the strongest man in history after eating 12.5 kg at once

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At Shirotaya, a kushikatsu shop he runs himself. Always interested in food, he became involved in the restaurant business after retiring from gluttony.

I had three fights in one day for my debut in ’01, and it was really tough. I didn’t realize it because it was my first time to participate in a big food show and I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but looking back now, I think it was a lot for an amateur to do three fights in one day. At the time, I thought that was the norm, so I was eating even though I thought it was tough.

So says Giant Hakuta, 42, who was once considered a legend in the Heisei era’s gluttonous eating boom.’ He retired from food fighting after 2007 and now runs a kushikatsu restaurant in Dotonbori, Osaka. He cooks and serves customers himself. Fifteen years have passed since his retirement, and now that the craze for gluttony has died down, Hakuta tells us the inside story.

I think that because eating is such a familiar act, it is easier to convey the greatness of gluttony to many people. Some people like to watch people eat. In my case, since I was a child, I liked to eat a lot. However, as I started eating large meals as part of my job, it became painful for me to eat a lot of food. I’ve always been quite insatiable, but I think I’ve been a big eater for quite a long time.

During his active career, Shirata trained quite stoically for gluttony and improved his skills as a food fighter.

I trained in my own way,” he said. I would go to all-you-can-eat places and fill myself up to the limit. Other food fighters who were active at the time were also training to expand their stomachs as if they were athletes. There are many ways to do it, but in the end, the fastest way is to eat to your limit and expand your stomach. Takeru Kobayashi, 43, a fellow fighter, drank 10 L of water to expand his stomach, and within a month or so, he had expanded his stomach to its limit.

Many Japanese food fighters were slender in build, although many of them continued to undergo grueling training for gluttony at the time.

In the gluttony industry, it was said that if you were too fat, you could not eat much because your abdominal fat would not stretch easily.

The average capacity of the Japanese stomach is about 1.8 kg. If you want to stand out in the gluttony industry, you need to have a capacity of at least 8 kg. In my case, when I ate the most, I had 12.5 kg of food in my stomach.

Heisei food fighter who ate an unusual amount of food. What is truly surprising is the change in his body after a meal.

When the stomach expands, the small intestine gets compressed and pushed to the back. From the outside, it looks like a bulge on the side of the spine, just below the ribs. This is common in our industry (laughs).

(Laughs) Also, when we eat a big meal on TV, we are usually sitting down, but when I try to stand up after eating about 10 kg in 60 minutes, I get dizzy. As you eat a large amount of food, your body’s axis shifts and you lose your balance. I think only a stoic food fighter with a stomach capacity of over 8 kg would understand this feeling.”

Kilograms” are often used as a unit to describe gluttony, but the severity for the eater cannot be expressed in numbers.

It may come as a surprise to you, but egg dishes are really tough,” he said. In the second round of my debut match, I ate more than 60 hot spring eggs, which made me feel incredibly sick and nauseous. It wasn’t that I was full, but the smell of the eggs and the richness of the yolk turned into a feeling of discomfort as I ate them. I was so traumatized by eating eggs that even after that big meal, I was traumatized by eating egg dishes.

Others ate too much hot ramen and suffered heat stroke-like conditions, and I myself ate too much cold food and could not stop shaking. It is a harshness that cannot be measured by quantity alone.

He says that what kept him motivated during such a grueling challenge was the tension of having rivals.

In the past, there were all those shows where people competed to see how much food they could eat in serious competition, but then I realized that those shows had disappeared, and when I looked around, there were no strong rivals anymore. During the training period, you are in solitude, eating alone and silently, expanding your stomach, and it’s quite a mental strain. It’s hard to keep going without a rival.

I still get offers to come back, but I can only get my stomach capacity back to a little over 8 kg already. To come back at that level would be a disgrace.”

Even though he can eat more than four times the amount of food of a normal person, he says, “I can’t do gluttony anymore. This high level of professionalism is the reason why he will remain in people’s memories as a legend.

In 2004, he won second place in a hot dog-eating contest in New York City, finishing 38 dogs in 12 minutes. The winner was Takeru Kobayashi with 53.5 hot dogs (photo at far right).
Giant Hakuta: The Harsh Backstage of the Heisei Gluttony Boom
Giant Hakuta: The Tough Behind-the-Scenes Stories of the Heisei Eating Boom

From the March 4, 2022 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Afro Kei Kato

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