Where: Tokyo, Japan, Ryogoku Station. It’s a brief walk, since it’s in the building behind the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
Time: Anywhere from an hour to a full day
A Brief History: Records of sumo have been found from as early as early as the 3rd century. It was also a favorite sport of the emperors and only later became something enjoyed by the masses. Tournaments were often used as a way to raise money for Shinto shrines and other religious reasons. However, sumo in its current form really took shape in the 19th and 20th century, with certain sets of rules and rituals that can be seen in the tournaments today.
Point of Interest: The sumo tournaments extend from morning throughout the day. It’s important to note that the professional wrestlers are in the very last segment of the tournament each day (starting at about 5:30 pm). This is when the stadium really starts filling up and the fans come out in full. Also, if you’re interested in seeing the wrestlers up close and personal, you can wait outside on the sidewalk near the west side of the building (but be aware that the wrestlers are very unlikely to stop and chat or take pictures, and they keep moving to their destination).
Recommendation: 5/5. The sport is compelling to watch, for it’s far different than other sports. There are some fans who have their favorite wrestler, but many of the fans love many of the wrestlers. The matches are interesting in and of themselves. There is a lot more ceremony involved in sumo, from the beginning prayers, to the stances. The time it takes a wrestler to prepare for the match can be from 10-15 minutes, while the actual match might last somewhere from 5-30 seconds. The longest one I saw lasted perhaps 45 seconds. Also, sumo is not a best out of 3 sport. The wrestlers get one try to beat their opponent.
*Note: Sumo matches only happen during the tournament seasons. In Tokyo, the seasons are the beginning of January, May, and September, and in other parts of Japan they are: March, November, July.
**Note: Getting tickets can be tricky. If you don’t buy a seat as soon as they open, you’ll likely not be able to get one. But don’t fear! The last row of seats in the stadium is reserved for people who buy their tickets the day of. The only problem with this is, you need to be EARLY to get that ticket. We were advised to get there at 6:30 am, and we got there a bit earlier than that and a line was already forming (and the sales didn’t open until 8:30 that day). You can only get one ticket per person, so no sending someone to get multiple tickets.
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