Sumo (相撲, sumō), the Japanese style of wrestling, is a very popular activity amongst both locals and tourists. As a spectator that is, not many practice Japan’s national sport as the wrestlers need to adopt a very strict lifestyle. The rules of sumo are quite easy to understand and the games are short, but intense. Together with the many rituals, makes that the tournaments attract large crowds and tickets often sell out within the hour! When you visit Japan, definitely try to squeeze in some time to watch this exciting sport.
In ancient times sumo originated as a performance to entertain the Shinto deities. Legends tell that sumo was practised by the gods, before handed down to the people. There are many rituals with a religious background, such as the use of salt to purify the ring [dohyo]. The rules are simple: the two wrestlers [rikishi] will try to push each other out of the dohyo or knock over the other. The first one to step out of the ring or to touch the ground with any part of his body other than the soles of his feet, has lost the match. The game typically lasts only a few intense seconds, but sometimes games of one long minute can be seen.
The appearance of the rikishi is very striking and traditional; their samurai-like hairstyle chonmage originates from the Edo-period. The samurai used chonmage to hold their helmet steady atop of their head in battle. Also, the only piece of clothing is the belt called mawashi. The mawashi is worn before, during and after the game. The upper ranked professional wrestlers wear a keshō-mawashi during ring entry ceremony.
The professional rikishi are divided into six divisions. The wrestlers are classified in a ranking hierarchy [banzuke], that is updated after each tournament based on the wrestlers’ performance. The top Makunouchi division is subdivided into five ranks: Yokozuna at the pinnacle, followed by Ozeki, Sekiwake, Komusubi, and Maegashira. The second division is called Juryo. Funfact: in sumo there are no weight restrictions or classes, meaning that your opponent can be many times your own size! As a result, weight gain is an essential part of sumo training.
Grand sumo tournaments
Every year six Grand Sumo tournaments “本場所 [Honbasho]” are held. Occurring on the odd months, each tournament starts and ends on a Sunday and lasts 15 days.
- January, May, and September at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo.
- March in Osaka.
- July in Nagoya.
- November in Fukuoka.
Tournaments starts at 8:00am with matches between lower-ranked wrestlers. Around 3:30pm the ring entering ceremony [dohyō-iri] of stronger wrestlers starts. Reserve at least three hours and to make the most out of your experience we recommend you go together with a guide. A guide will tell you about the history and traditions of sumo so you understand the sport better and have a great experience. Read more about this guided tour at our website Sumo Tournament with Guide.
The official tickets are usually released one month prior to the tournament’s first day and anyone can apply via Ticket Oosumo. Though, to get tickets can be tricky as they are very popular and often sell out within the hour!!
But don’t be afraid, you can still get tickets for the tournament! You could opt for the Same Day Ticket. Those are sold at the box office of the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium each match day from 8am. You can only buy one ticket per person and limited numbers of ticket are available. We have tried this once but when we arrived at 6am, the line was already too long and we weren’t able to get tickets anymore.
Our recommendation: play it safe and secure your tickets right now through us! Get your tickets here Sumo Tournament Tickets.
Those of you who visit Japan during one of the six Grand Sumo Tournaments should certainly go. It will give you the most exciting experience and opportunity to feel the atmosphere of the sumo culture! If you would like to go and see some sumo action but can’t go to the tournament, there are also other possibilities. Read more about this competitive full-contact wrestling in our blog Experience the Daily Life of a Sumo Wrestler