If your Tokyo trip coincides with a locally held sumo tournament, then watching a live match is an absolute must. We will reveal when, where, and how to get tickets, as well as alternative options, just in case you are unable to see a live sumo wrestling match at a stadium.
- The Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium
- Types of stadium seats
- Where to get Tokyo sumo tickets
- Watch sumo training at a stable
- Yasukuni Shrine sumo exhibition
The Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium
If you want to watch sumo in all its splendor and glory, then this is where you want to be – the Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium in Sumida, Tokyo.
Grand tournaments are held every second month somewhere in Japan, and half of them take place right here. Tickets, in general, go on sale one month before a tournament and sell out pretty fast. It’s advised to get your ticket well in advance if you plan to attend a match that falls on either a weekend or a national holiday because those sell out first. Attending sumo matches that take place on weekdays is the best bet for those who didn’t get tickets far in advance.
Types of stadium seats
Choosing the most comfortable kind of seat is essential if you plan on watching a sumo event because you will be there for hours.
Ringside seats: These are the most popular and therefore most expensive seats available in the stadium. Even if you have the money for such a seat, obtaining a ringside ticket would still be difficult because it’s very exclusive.
Box seats: Box seats are the most common seats available. You purchase a box, which generally seats 4 people, instead of one (as pictured below). You sit the traditional Japanese way – on cushioned floors, which can be uncomfortable unless you are used to it. A good solution is to buy a box seat for two people. That way you can stretch your legs out. Additionally, bring your own cushions for back support.
Chair seats: Box seats are the most common seats available. You purchase a box, which generally seats four people instead of one (as pictured below). You sit the traditional Japanese way – on cushioned floors, which can be uncomfortable unless you are used to it. A good solution is to bring only one other person with you to your four-seater box. That way, you can stretch your legs out. Also, you might want to bring your own cushions from home for back support.
Where to get Tokyo sumo wrestling tickets
There are several ways to get sumo wrestling tickets for tournaments at the Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium, which we will list below.
At the stadium entrance: Tickets can be purchased on the day of a tournament at the stadium entrance. The best chance of them having seats available is by showing up early for a weekday tournament but be prepared for disappointment.
Sumo-jaya (Sumo information offices): Information offices are located throughout Tokyo and are good places to purchase tickets in advance.
Watch sumo training at a stable
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to attend a grand sumo tournament, then why not watch these professional wrestlers train?
Each wrestler, whether amateur or professional, belongs to a stable and it’s a place where they live and train. There are an estimated 47 such sumo stables located in Tokyo; with most being in the Ryogoku district. To watch a training session, you will have to phone one of these stables the day before and ask for permission to attend. Not all sumo stables allow this, so you might have to phone around until you find one that does.
This method is problematic for several reasons, though. The first being that when you call the stable, you should have decent Japanese language skills, otherwise they won’t know who you are or what you want. Secondly, don’t be surprised to see a line of other tourists waiting outside when you show up. It may be best to arrive earlier because sumo stables can only allow a certain number of spectators per training session. Also, it’s not uncommon for the stable master to cancel or change his mind at the last minute.
Arranging all this by yourself and enjoying the 1 to 3 hour-long training session is free of charge. But if all these steps seem a bit daunting and you don’t mind spending some money, then you can arrange it effortlessly through a tour operator.
The yearly sumo exhibition at the Yasukuni shrine
The annual sumo exhibition at the Yasukuni shrine takes place on the 16th of April and is the perfect chance to watch these wrestlers perform for free.
The event, more formerly known as the Honozumo tournament, attracts many sumo fans who come to watch professional wrestlers perform on the Yasukuni shrine’s permanent dojo. In 1917 the Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium burned down, so for the following two years, all Tokyo sumo matches were held at the shrine while the reconstruction of the main stadium was underway.
After reconstruction was complete, the Japanese Sumo Association decided to hold a yearly exhibition at the shrine, which continues to this day. Entry is free, but those who wish to attend need to arrive and queue early because space is limited. Throughout the day, those lucky enough to make it in will enjoy several wrestling matches by professional wrestlers and comedy routines. The famous sumo wrestler cuisine and beer known as chankonabe and Asahi can also be bought and is well worth trying.