Japan is truly chock-full of unique cultural icons that have made it such a fun and fascinating destination! Out of everything in Japan, one thing that definitely stands out is the country’s national sport: sumo wrestling! This incredible sport can only be found right here in Japan. Whether you’re a fan of sports or not, a sumo wrestling show is definitely a must-see.
The action-packed sport has plenty of throwing, spinning, and near-misses to entertain just about anyone. It’s truly a sight to see as these larger-than-life players battle it out in the arena. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about sumo wrestling and how you can see it up close and personal in Japan!
Attend One Of The Sumo Grand Tournaments In Tokyo
Sumo tournaments happen thrice a year in Tokyo. These tournaments are called “basho” and occur during January, May, and September. These basho are held at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the national sumo stadium! Each tournament lasts for 15 days, which means the country is in a total sumo frenzy for about 45 days a year.
Because sumo is such a beloved sport, plenty of locals and even foreigners anticipate the tournaments every year. To make sure you get a ticket, we advise you to book in advance as ticket-selling can get as competitive as the sport itself! You can buy sumo tickets online here.
When watching sumo, you can also opt to buy either box seats or arena seats. Box seats are also called “masu seki,” and they feature a small square of tatami mat where around 4-6 people can fit. This means you’d have to pay for the entire mat, which makes box seats perfect for small groups! These cost around ¥38,000-¥47,000 (~$255-$315) which you can then divide between the group!
On the other hand, arena seats are cheaper and easier to get. The starting price is around ¥2,500 (~$17), and the tickets get more expensive the closer the seat is to the fighting ring.
Join A Sumo Training Experience
Booked a ticket to Japan during sumo’s off-season? Don’t worry! There are still plenty of ways you can watch sumo wrestling even when it’s not tournament season. One of the most unique and exciting ways is to join a sumo training experience! Sumo wrestlers train all year for their tournaments. With this activity, you get to see them practice the athletic as well as cultural traditions that come with the sport.
Sumo wrestlers live in communal “stables” called “heya” where they follow the strict traditions of the sport. The customs and etiquette must be observed at all times, and you can see how serious these athletes are about their sport. Sumo is not just a mere sport but a way of life as well.
If you visit, make sure to remain respectful! Don’t eat, talk loudly, take photos with bright flashes, or do anything that would distract the wrestlers.
Book It Here: Sumo Training Experience
Lunch With Sumo Wrestlers
Instead of going to a regular old restaurant, why not spice up the lunchtime experience by watching a sumo show while you eat? Another unique way to see sumo in Tokyo is at the Yokozuna Tonkatsu Dosukoi Tanaka! At this restaurant, you can get the unique experience of having a delicious lunch while having incredible sumo wrestlers battle it out right in front of you.
Like the name suggests, this restaurant offers world-class tonkatsu that will definitely keep you coming back for more. As you munch on their delicious dishes, you can also learn all about the history of sumo, the daily lives of sumo wrestlers, and all the techniques and skills that come with it!
If you’re brave enough, you can even battle it out with a former sumo wrestler right in the restaurant’s ring! Yokozuna Tonkatsu Dosukoi Tanaka definitely offers a fun and interactive experience for you to learn all about this amazing sport up close.
Book It Here: Lunch with Sumo Wrestlers
If you love eating Japanese food, you should also check out our list of the best food tours in Tokyo!
Explore Ryogoku, The Center Of Sumo Culture In Tokyo
All the sumo tournaments take place in Ryogoku, known as the center of sumo culture in all of Tokyo! This riverside arena is located near the Sumida River. Here you can find plenty of other places dedicated to traditional Japanese culture like workshops producing traditional crafts as well as training stables for sumo wrestlers. There are also plenty of museums around where you can learn about sumo and other fascinating things about the Edo Period!
Whether it’s tournament season or not, the spirit of sumo is very much alive here in the Ryogoku area. You can still spot sumo wrestlers training even when it’s not tournament time. There are also incredible fluttering flags and pounding drums that will make you feel just how beloved and important the art and sport of sumo is to Japan!
Another think that you can experience in Ryogoku is eating Chanko Nabe, Sumo’s go-to food! You will find plenty of restaurants offering Chanko Nabe in Ryogoku so make sure you try it.
To explore Ryogoku area with local guide, we recommend you to join this day tour that also include Chanko Nabe Lunch!
Other FAQs About Sumo In Japan
When did sumo start?
Sumo has a long and colorful history in Japan. It dates back over 1,500 years with roots in the Ryogoku area. The exact date when sumo started has been lost to history, but experts believe the sport started sometime during the Yayoi Period (300 BE – 300 CE). Aside from being a mere sport, it is also closely linked to religious rituals, especially in Shintoism. There are historical references describing spirits known as kami being summoned and fought by wrestlers.
Sumo is a huge part of Japanese mythology and history. It is even mentioned in the Kojiki Manuscript of 712 CE, which describes a wrestling match between the god of thunder Takemikazuchi and the god of water Takeminakata. Today, some of these ritualistic elements are still found in the practice of sumo, though it has evolved to become more of a popular sport. To this day, Japan remains the only country where this incredible sport is played professionally.
How do sumo wrestlers win a game?
Despite all the flair and theatrics, sumo is actually a pretty simple sport. Wrestlers can win in two ways. One is by forcing their opponent out of the ring, and the other is by forcing their opponent to touch the ground with any part of their body except for their feet. Using strength, tactics, and strategy, wrestlers can go about doing this in any way they see fit!
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How to become a sumo wrestler?
Becoming a sumo wrestler not only requires physical strength but a great amount of discipline as well. As we have already mentioned, sumo training takes place in stables called heya. You may think these are like regular old gyms where you can drop by anytime you want, but that’s not true. Sumo stables are high-pressure environments where extreme discipline is needed.
Wrestlers–called rikishi–live full-time in these stables. The career of a sumo wrestler usually begins when they are teenagers. As junior rikishi, they have to work hard to climb the ladder and become respected professionals in their fields. Junior rikishi are usually expected to clean, cook, and do all sorts of odd jobs around the heya. They are seen as subordinates to the heya’s more senior wrestlers. They can only rise in the hierarchy when newer juniors arrive.
We hope you enjoyed our ultimate guide to sumo! Which sumo experience are you most looking forward to trying? Don’t forget to tell us in the comments!
Sumo is indeed a fascinating sport. The display of brute strength is paired with a unique sort of grace you wouldn’t necessarily expect from athletes that large. It’s a sport, an art form, and a way of life that is unique to Japanese culture!