Sumo! We were so lucky to be visiting Tokyo while a Grand Sumo Tournament was going on. These do not happen all the time and they do not stay in the same location. There are six Grand Sumo tournaments (also known as Basho) a year. Tokyo hosts three of the tournaments at the famous famous Ryōgoku Kokugikan stadium in January, May and September, then travels to three other destinations in Japan for the other tournament months – Osaka/March, Nagoya/July, Fukuoka/November. The first day of the tournament starts on a Sunday and runs for two weeks so there are ample opportunities to see a tournament if you are visiting around the time of the event.
I was able to figure out where to purchase tickets online and I was diligent to purchase them as soon as they became available. These are high demand tickets so I would suggest doing the same if you are interested in going. You can purchase various different ticket options, including floor seats. We purchased the cheapest tickets to give us the flexibility that if we did not spend a ton of time here, it was not a waste of money. Physical tickets are will call adjacent where you show your confirmation code to any 7/11 and they can print out your tickets. The tournament goes on all day with hour from 10AM to 6PM and we were instructed that if you want to see the advanced matches to arrive after 2PM.
We arrived to a mob of people outside the stadium but no one seemed to be moving so we made our way to the ticketing station and scanned through the gates. With a map in hand, we attempted to navigate to our seats but ultimately asked a staff member for some assistance and we successfully made it to our seats – the very last row in the stadium.
The stadium is quite large and it was full of people – our eyes were side open taking in all the details. In the center of the stadium was the stage in which the sumo occurred and there were the two sumo wrestlers and a referee dressing in beautiful robes. On the upper side of the stadium were a bunch of Japanese characters and we later learned that they were each of the matches and the one that wins get lite up – so it is a way of keeping score like it is a baseball score board.
While we were a bit lost watching each match, it was such fun to enjoy and try and figure it out. We brought the “good” camera to take some up close photos and it also doubled as binoculars which came in handy. There was a couple sitting next to us that definitely had interest in the photos we were taking so I nudged Kevin to show the gentleman that was sitting next to him. He knew enough English for us to have a great conversation for the rest of the tournament. We learned their favorite sumo wrestlers, who the champion was, how the matches are set up, and more.
Basics of sumo:
- The ring is called a dohyo
- The goal is to force your opponent out of the dohyo
- Another way to win the match is to make your opponent touch the ground with any part of his body (feet do not count)
- Rankings of sumo wrestlers are a big deal and there the ranking status is attached to the name of the wrestler. Yokozuna is the champion followed by ozeki, sekiwake, komusubi, and all the way down to maegashira.
I did not expect us to stay until the end but we were having such a fun time! At an intermission, we grabbed ice cream to enjoy while watching the final matches and they were so intense. Learning some of the details and history of these players from our new friends really made the experience even better.