Photo/IllutrationEiji Okubo holds plates of jumbo hamburg steak in his restaurant in Nagoya’s Chikusa Ward. (Masaki Hashida)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NAGOYA--Beat an 86-year-old man in arm wrestling and win a free lunch?

Many have tried to their regret to put Eiji Okubo down at his restaurant here in the city’s Chikusa Ward.

But most have been left digging into their pockets to pay for lunch.

Okubo sports a ripped body and has competed in arm wrestling matches several thousand times with a winning percentage of 98 percent.

The muscular restaurateur also looks flashy in his signature pink pants and red shoes, but he is a family man more than anything else: Okubo wanted to be macho for his second son with cerebral palsy.

Okubo’s restaurant, the Grill Princesse, is a three-minute walk from Ikeshita Station on Nagoya municipal subway’s Higashiyama Line. It is located on the first basement floor of an old-fashioned building.

Okubo serves dishes and clears tables, working from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on a daily basis.

Okubo is 162 centimeters tall and weighs 63 kilograms. He stands with his back straight, is thick-chested and has muscular upper arms. He can bench-press 65 kg and do 100 push-ups in 35 seconds.

After graduating from college, Okubo landed a job at a Nagoya hotel and worked as a cook and as a waiter. He left after about 10 years to open the Grill Princesse.

Meanwhile, Okubo started working out to build muscle when he was around 40. His motivation was to be tough enough to protect his second son, who has cerebral palsy and couldn’t speak or walk from a young age. Okubo wore flashy clothes to motivate himself.

“I can’t have my body looking flabby when the showy clothes attract attention, right?”

Daily effort is what counts when it comes to building muscles. Okubo felt the itch to put his achievement to the test after he turned 60, and started challenging customers with strong physiques to arm wrestling matches. Feeling an urge to compete with stronger contenders, the restaurateur has put up a sign that reads, “Beat me in an arm wrestling and get a free lunch” since about 10 years ago.

Okubo works out his arms with iron dumbbells he keeps in the restaurant, and bench-presses 65 kg 10 times at home. He trains his legs and back by standing on one leg while he takes a train, and walks at a brisk pace when he goes out.

“It is such a joy to meet someone stronger than me,” said Okubo, who has put up signboards with his favorite words inside the restaurant, which read, “Ability has nothing to do with age” and “Health is above wealth.”

“I have arm wrestled at least a few thousand times,” Okubo said. “I haven’t counted how many wins and losses I’ve had, but I think I’ve lost once in every 40 matches in the recent past.”

The mighty restaurateur has caused quite a stir, attracting arm wrestling challengers from across the country in recent years. If they beat Okubo, they are treated to a free lunch or get a discount of 1,000 yen ($9.40) at dinnertime. Most lose, but Okubo gives them a free chocolate bar before they leave the restaurant.

The most popular food served at the Grill Princesse is the jumbo hamburg steak, which comes with a 300-gram patty of grilled ground beef on an iron plate and is priced at 1,150 yen, excluding tax. The appeal is that it is topped with demi-glace sauce to which Okubo has been making improvements for more than 50 years.

“Cooking and muscles can be improved,” Okubo said, adding that he intends to work at his restaurant for the rest of his life.