Where to Watch Sumo in Tokyo
If your trip to Tokyo coincides with a locally held sumo tournament, then watching one of these matches is a must. We will reveal when, where, how to get tickets and alternative options in case you are unable to see a live sumo wrestling match at a stadium.
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 these take place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium in Tokyo. Tickets, in general, go on sale one month prior to a tournament and sell out pretty quick. It’s advised to get your ticket in advance if you plan to attend a match that falls on a weekend or a national holiday because those sell out first. Sumo matches which takes place on normal weekdays are the best bet for those who didn’t get tickets far beforehand.
Types of stadium seats
Choosing the most comfortable type 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 ring side 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: Chair seats are by far the most comfortable seats available. Another bonus is that they also happen to be the cheapest seats in the sumo arena. The only catch is that they are the furthest from the dojo so actually seeing the action in the ring will be hard unless you have really good eyesight.
Where to get Tokyo sumo wrestling tickets
There are a number of 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 chances 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 scattered throughout Tokyo. These 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’s an estimated 47 such sumo stables located in Tokyo; with most being in the Ryogoku district. Watching a training session would require you to phone a stable 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.
This method can be problematic for a number of reasons though. The first being that when you call the stable you should have decent Japanese language skills. 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 in 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 it seems a bit daunting and you don’t mind spending some money you can arrange it effortlessly by means of a tour operator.
The yearly sumo exhibition at the Yasukuni shrine
The yearly sumo exhibition at the Yasukuni shrine takes place on the 16th 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 Yasukani shrine’s permanent dojo. In 1917 the Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium burned down so for the next 2 years the Tokyo sumo matches were held at the shrine while reconstruction of the main stadium was underway.
After the stadium 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 a number of 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.