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Za Challenge!
Photos by Maki Nibayashi
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Can you do it? Can you eat 100 gyoza, or 1.5kg of tonkatsu and shredded cabbage and still live to tell about it? Put aside the question of why anyone would want to gorge themselves sick; "because it's there" is probably the closest we'll get to an answer. As a test of the depths to which someone will sink for a free meal, we put TC's own very good sport Hiroshi Naka up against five servings of okonomiyaki and a twenty-minute time limit. The winner? Okonomiyaki!

Miyajima
The challenge
- Men: Five person's worth of okonomiyaki
- Women: Three person's worth of okonomiyaki
- Time limit: 20 minutes
- If you win: Free meal (you just ate it!) and JY2000 coupons for use at Miyajima only
- If you lose: Men pay JY3500, women JY3000
- Reservation: One day in advance

This Hiroshima specialty certainly was a challenge for Hiroshi. Though he managed to scarf down the first quarter in a right-on-target five minutes, he only managed another quarter in the next 15. He's not alone; apparently, there have not been any successful male challengers in the past two years. Females, with their slight handicap, have been a bit more successful.
Ouch: Almost a whole cabbage goes into the okonomiyaki. Burp!
Open 11:30am-10pm (Sun/holidays till 9pm). 1-18 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku (03-3461-1228). Nearest stn: Shibuya, near Tokyu Department store.

Yakiniku Iroha Honten
The challenge
- Finish five bibinbaps and one bowl of soup
- Time limit: 30 minutes
- If you win: Free meal (the one you just finished!) and JY5000
- If you lose: Pay JY4900 - the cost of dishes you failed to finish
- Reservation: Not necessary

Ishiyaki bibinbap, a Korean BBQ dish where rice, vegetables, ground beef and an egg yolk are mixed together in a bowl, is great if you're only having one, but five?
Ouch: You've just consumed five eggs!
Open 11:30am-6am daily. Tachida Bldg 1F, 42-12-2 Ueno, Taito-ku (03-5818-4129). Nearest stn: Uenohirokoji, Ginza line.

Tonjin
The challenge
- A 750gm deep-fried pork cutlet with a side order of 750gm of shredded cabbage, bowl of rice, miso soup and pickled vegetables
- Time limit: 25 minutes
- If you win: Free meal (the one you just finished) and JY30,000
- If you lose: Pay JY5000
- Reservation: Three days prior to The challenge

The dish is huge and intimidating but the men's record is 9 minutes 10 seconds and the women's 15 minutes 40 seconds. The restaurant has been challenging its customers for over twenty years and past challengers advise eating the cabbage first when you're still hungry because it's very bland.
Ouch: Imagine the cholesterol!
Open 11:30am-2:30pm and 5-9:50pm, closed for lunch Sat/Sun. 5-18-7 Toyotamakita, Nerima-ku (03-3994-3128). Nearest stn: Nerima, Seibu Ikebukuro line.

Ribera
The challenge
- Three 500gm rib roast steaks and three large bowls of rice
- Time limit: 30 minutes
- If you win: Free meal (the one you just finished) and JY10,000
- If you lose: Pay JY8700
- Reservation: Not necessary

The size alone is intimidating, never mind the huge portions of rice. It's a major workout just cutting up the meat into bite-size pieces so cut while it's still warm.
Ouch: This meal will be with you for months.
Open 6-11pm Tue-Sun, closed Mon. 3-6-18 Higashi-Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku (03-3446-6941). Nearest stn: Gotanda.

Kitashinchi Maguro
The challenge
- 123 plates of sushi
- Time limit: 45 minutes
- If you win: Free meal (the one you just finished) and JY5,000,000!
- If you lose: Pay JY5500
- Reservation: At least one day in advance

No one has ever completed this challenge. The best record is 85 plates, which has most people giving up before they even start. You don't even want to consider it unless you're being chased by yakuza or loan sharks and are really, really desperate.
Ouch: There are two pieces on a plate!
Open 11am-10:30pm daily. 20-8 Oyama Higashimachi, Itabashi-ku (03-5944-7366). Nearest stn: Oyama, Tobu Tojo line, north exit.

Marusachi
The challenge
- 100 gyoza for men, 50 for women
- Time limit: 60 minutes
- If you win: Free meal (the one you just finished)
- If you lose: Pay JY9000
- Reservation: One day in advance

Just look for the Chinese ramen shop with lizards and snakes on the walls and you're at Marusachi. Although gyoza can be heavy, Marusachi's are light and thanks to all the cabbage they use, not too heavy on the stomach. And hey, if you fail, they'll give a doggy bag so you can continue your challenge at home.
Ouch: You've just eaten a lot of garlic!
Open 6pm-4:30am Mon-Sat, closed Sun. 1-26-13 Nishi-Koiwa, Edogawa-ku (03-3672-0041). Nearest stn: JR Koiwa.

Maki Nibayashi with special thanks to Hiroshi Naka.



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