Skip to Content

Watching a Sumo Tournament! – Tokyo

The Sumo championships are a must-see while in Japan.

Every year, in January, the Grand Sumo Tournament is held in Tokyo. When we lived in Japan before, we spent all our winters skiing on the fantastic slopes of northern Honshu and spent all our summers traveling. We just never seemed to make the time to do the sumo tournament. On a return trip to Japan, one of the first things we booked was the tickets for tournament. We were not disappointed, as sumo is one of those sports that is unique to Japan. Not even other Asian countries have anything like it.

The Sumo championships are a must-see while in Japan. Find out all about them here.

Sumo – The National Sport of Japan

The Sumo competitors line the ring.

Instead, we flew in for just a few days, during the worst time of the year, just to make up for some lost time.

The tournament doors open pretty early in the morning, with the youngest sumo wrestlers going first. The real action gets started later in the afternoon, about 2:00. That’s when the heavyweights, the stars, battle it out for the top slot, and that is also when the majority of the spectators arrive.

The wrestlers perform the pre-bout ritual.

We arrived at the stadium a little before noon. When we got there the stadium was pretty empty. There were people lolling about, eating lunch, and even a few were paying attention to the bouts, but it didn’t really get hopping for another couple of hours.

The referee starts the match.

If you enjoy unique things you can only do in Japan, check out this podcast!

The referee leads the competitors into the auditorium.
Readying for the competition.

After watching a number of matches, we noticed the routine was always the same. The announcer would call in the contestants, who would face each other in a squatting position. But then, they would get up numerous times to complete a cleansing ritual.

Ready, set, and go!
Posturing is a very important part of the match.
The wrestling begins.
Making sure to have all the tools needed to MC.

The cleansing ritual was facilitated by the last sumo wrestler that fought on your side. He would assist the new guy in cleaning his face, nose, and throwing salt on the sand platform.

One of the most cultural events in Tokyo - SUMO!

Then the two contestants would once again face off with a few false starts, intimidating their opponent. And in a flash, it was the real deal. Both pushing and pulling, and trying to trip the other. We saw some pretty exciting bouts, where wrestlers were falling completely out of the ring. Too much fun!

Attend a sumo match in Japan! Find out here.

The Sumo Grand Tournaments are held a few times a year in Tokyo, such as January, May, and August. They are well worth going to, one of the most entertaining sporting events I’ve ever been to.

Practical Information

Getting There: Since the tournament is right in Tokyo, it’s easy to fly in to Narita and take the train.  The arena is found in the Ryōgoku part of the city, and there are plenty of hotels and restaurants nearby as well as many other attractions.

To order tickets, you can go to this site.

If you are in Tokyo, and looking for day trips, check this out!

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Have you witnessed a real sumo tournament?


Sunday 28th of April 2013

Ok, this is now on my bucket list. Is there a web site (in English) where we can get info on dates, tickets, wardrobe tips, etc.?

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 30th of April 2013

We bought tickets ahead of time, because my daughter lives in Japan. I'm not sure how you can do that, but going at the time we did, people were still buying tickets for that day. They cost about 8400 yen each for a good seat. Try to get a corner seat for the best photos. Good luck with your planning!