#18 Takeru Kobayashi

Interview with Takeru Kobayashi

Takeru Kobayashi is a professional Japanese competitive eater living in New York. He became famous after setting a world record of eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes by doubling the world record at that time when he joined Nethan’s Coney Island hot dog-eating contest in 2001. As a professional competitive eater he won the contests for 6 consecutive times as well as breaking world records many times. We asked him a reason of becoming a competitive eater, his training methods and his view of Japan outside of Japan.

– What made you become a professional competitive eater?

Kobayashi:

While I was in college I participated in an event to eat curry rice for 3 lbs. Although I had not prepared for it at all, I was able to eat 11.24 lbs and broke the record at that time by 0.22 lbs. A friend of mine who joined the event with me was so surprised that he introduced me to a competitive eating TV program and I was featured there for the first time.

Winning the competitive eating contest on that TV program pushed me to believe that I could train myself and continue competing in future contests. The more I trained, the stronger I became, which created more interest within myself. That is when I truly realized that what I was doing was similar to what professional athletes do in any sport. Therefore I considered competitive eating to be a kind of sport and decided to pursue my career as a professional competitive eater.

–What kind of training have you been doing every day?

Kobayashi:

If a competitor has a large stomach from the beginning, he/she will already have a big advantage. If a competitor has a smaller stomach, then the challenge to create a flexible stomach is the key to making yourself a strong player. Therefore I gradually increase the amount of water that I drink about two months before a contest to make my stomach move. A stomach is made of muscle and stretching the stomach helps to increase its flexibility. Once I expand my stomach enough, I start training to eat.

The content of my training is created by me. I am probably the first professional competitive eater who makes a living from it professionally. No training method had been established yet when I started my career. I have tried many ways of my body to see what works for me and found a way to drink a large amount of water as a part of my training. Now most competitive eaters follow my method.

While you make your stomach bigger, you feel a gap between the flexibility of your stomach and the ability of digesting food. It takes more time to increase the latter ability. Therefore you cannot eat foods to the extent that you fully fulfill your stomach. I also have to think about what to eat when I prepare for contests. When I am tired of eating I take protein from supplement powder. I also include weight training and running in my training to keep my body healthy in addition to my eating training.

My challenge as a professional competitive eater is very interesting because there are no established training methods. Athletes have their physical peek in their early twenties, whatever sport they are playing. I thought this idea also applied to competitive eating. However in the field of competitive eating it is possible for you to break your record even after your physical peek if you find a better way to train your body. In fact I have kept breaking my record by changing to different eating techniques, and the content of my training. When I started my career, I thought I would retire by 30 years old but I now believe that I have a possibility of breaking my record for 10 more years.

I think larger people have a bigger chance of winning if they do the same training. Competitive eating contests should be done by different height categories to be fair to participants once this sport becomes popular. Although I am smaller than other participants I have more experience, knowledge and techniques than they do. Competitive eating has multiple factors to win a game as other sports do. I think I am stronger than the other competitors in the total of these factors such as my training environment, training methods and the ability to concentrate on training. I keep in mind to exceed others in that way.