by Shawn Clankie
In Sapporo, the Olympics are all around us. Venues from 1972, talk of 2026, and current and future Olympians competing in the many international competitions Sapporo hosts each year. But, unless you are willing to wait patiently (and often fruitlessly) in the cold after an event, it is relatively rare to actually meet an Olympian. Though there is an easier way. On the edge of Sapporo, just off Route 36 in Kiyota-ku is the Chuusan yakitori restaurant. Chuusan is owned and operated by Tadashi Nakamura, a former Olympian who competed in the 10 km and 20 km biathlon individual events (finishing 44th and 48th respectively), and as a member of the 4 x 7.5 km men’s biathlon relay team (finishing 14th) at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Open for the past seven years, Chuusan is a small traditional eatery with counter seating and a couple of raised tatami tables. It is cozy and warm, a great place for sizzling yakitori and a cold beer on those long Hokkaido winter nights. But for me, Chuusan is more. It is Japanese food culture up close, a neighborhood izakaya where everyone knows everyone, and if they don’t, they will by the end of dinner. I always try to go on a weeknight when the restaurant is less busy so I can talk with Nakamura-san. The yakitori he prepares is charcoal-grilled and delicious, with tsukune being the house specialty. Order up your favorites from the menu or leave it up to Nakamura-san and order the mori-awase. Either way, you’ll get a great meal, served up by someone who reached the top of his sport and represented Japan on the biggest stage of them all.
Chuusan is open daily except Mondays. Calling ahead will help guarantee that you get a seat. Dinner for two with drinks will run around 4,000-5,000 yen.
From Sapporo take route 36 past the Sapporo Dome towards Kita-Hiroshima. The visual marker you are looking for is the Fire Grill restaurant on your left. When you see the Fire Grill turn right and Chuusan will be the fourth building on your right-hand side (opposite the park). There are a couple of parking spots in front of the building. (Utsukushigaoka 2-jyo, 4-chome, 4-3, Kiyota-ku. 011-375-1288).