In person, Kobayashi is sweet, like a curious kid — unfailingly polite, charming and humble, with no brashness or other signs of rampaging ego. But he is hard on himself. He locks himself away performing dangerous feats because it is all he knows to do. He was the milk-drinking champ in school, the stew-eating champ in college, the winner of the biggest eating contest in Japan, then the Nathan's champ. Until he wasn't.
"Are you the Che Guevara of gurgitation or the Kenny Powers of power eating?" I asked him.
He paused, then laughed: "I am both!"