Ramen Made by a Japanese Masked Wrestler
– April 20th, 2017
There seem to be more individuals these days who are active beyond genres and boundaries, such as Major League Baseball’s two-way player, Shohei Ohtani. Tomomasa Kawano of Shoukiya (in Itoshima City, Fukuoka Prefecture) is another such person. He is the owner of this ramen shop as well as a luchador, a masked wrestler of Mexican wrestling, lucha libre.
Blond-haired, 172 centimeters tall, and weighing 85 kilograms, he is heavily built. He looks intimidating but is actually soft-spoken. “I’m shy around strangers,” says this man who seems to take on a different personality when he removes his mask.
Ramen at Shoukiya
Kawano entered the world of ramen at the age of 20, when he was suffering poor health and weighed in the 50-kilogram range. He first began working at a ramen house in Itoshima City, learning how to make the soup as a full-time employee for about 3 years. His dream was to start his own business, but he was full of uncertainty and could not take the first step. “He is so excessively cautious that when he knocks on a stone bridge, he’ll break it before he can even cross it,” says his wife, Misa, who also works with him at his shop. After leaving his full-time employment, he drifted through a total of 4 other ramen houses, labored as a seasonal worker, and did a stint at a landscaping company.
The turning point for Kawano came when he ate at a ramen shop that opened near the landscaping firm, Fukuoka City. He was stunned by the flavor of the soy sauce-based tonkotsu (pork bone broth) soup that he ordered at the branch shop of Ajishin (now closed). “I had never tasted anything like it, and I wanted to make that ramen.” He apprenticed for about a year and opened Shoukiya in 2009. The ramen he achieved has a burnished-colored, soy sauce-based tonkotsu soup. The distinct seasoning of the soup base stands out, while the umami of the pork bone also closes in on the palate. The consistency and flavor of the noodles are comforting, too.
Kawano’s ring name is SHO-KI, and his signature maneuver is the Barikata, in which he grabs his opponent and slams him against the ring. “At first, I wondered what in the world I was doing. But now I’m enjoying myself.” He plays the bad guy in the ring but is very popular. Spectators yell their encouragement, “I’m going to your place to eat your ramen!”
Kawano standing in the ring as a luchador.
It was about 5 years ago that Kawano began getting involved with lucha libre that is now an integral part of his life. A luchador named Jiraiya, who had wrestled in Mexico, had opened a gym behind his shop and his eldest son had begun to practice there. The boy would practice his newly-learned techniques with him, but he had no idea how to take them. “I didn’t want to see him so disappointed, and that’s why I began taking lessons as well.”
Thus began his daily regimen of workouts and practices on the weekends. On match days, he prepares his soup before dawn and then leaves, and at the locale, he helps carry in the ring as well as set up and dismantle the venue. Matches have increased with time; last year he had one almost every month. “It’s tough physically. But I feel good when I get into the ring,” says Kawano. “He’s also become able to take a step forward, making new dishes and so on. When the ramen master is enjoying himself, the soup becomes even tastier,” his wife Misa shares her insight on the synergy.
“Shoukiya and lucha libre ― I want to popularize both.” Double-jobbing isn’t easy, but what is undeniable is that he has a very fulfilling life.
Note: The infromation is current at the time of publication.
覆面レスラー 得意技は「バリカタ」 笑喜屋（福岡県糸島市）