Last updated on April 1st, 2022
If you are lucky enough to plan your trip for when a sumo tournament is happening in Japan, like I was, you will want to make sure you buy tickets.
Sumo wrestling is definitely something you don’t want to miss on your trip to Japan. This guide will help you learn how to buy tickets, when tournaments are, what it’s like to watch sumo wrestling and helpful tips to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Here is what you need to know to ensure you have a great experience:
What is Sumo Wrestling?
Sumo Wrestling is the Japanese form of wrestling, in which only men can participate. Wrestling matches take place in an elevated ring (dohyo) made of straw-rice bales, and the platform is covered with a clay-sand mix.
Originating in Japan centuries ago during the Edo era, sumo is Japan’s National sport.
The Rules of Sumo:
Before each match, a ritual is performed by each wrestler.
To Start A Match
A match begins when both wrestlers hands and feet are in contact with the floor.
To Win A Match
The first one out of the ring or to have any body part other than feet touch the ground loses the match
With the dohyo’s small size of 175 square feet, each match does not last very long. Sumo matches are only seconds long, with few lasting longer than a minute or so, though, they are action-packed. It’s possible to see wrestlers thrown out of the ring by their opponents.
A Typical Sumo Tournament Day
Matches start early at 8:30 am and will happen all day until around 6 pm. Entry to the sumo venue is available at 8 am.
Note: Your ticket allows you to enter and exit matches as you wish, as well as to leave the venue and return once, in case you want to go out for food and come back.
Lower division matches occur first and slowly progress up to the higher divisions throughout the tournament day. The best sumo matches are in the afternoon and early evening around 2-6pm, when the highest ranking wrestlers have their turn in the ring.
Sumo tournaments last 15 days and each wrestler in the higher divisions has only a single match each day, with lower ranking wrestlers fighting every other day.
Whichever wrestler has the most wins in his division at the end of the tournament, wins his division. There are a total of 6 divisions.
Tip: If your time is limited, attend only the highest-ranking matches between 2-6 pm. This will allow you to see the most amount of action in the shortest amount of time.
Where Can You Watch Sumo Wrestling?
You can attend a sumo tournament in the following Japanese cities: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. Tokyo hosts sumo tournaments most frequently of these cities. On my visit, I attended the Tokyo tournament, and it was unforgettable.
When To Visit
There are 6 sumo tournaments held each year across Japan.
The tournaments are in the following cities during these months each year:
Tokyo: January, May, and September
Note: On my visit, I attended the January tournament which is held at Ryōgoku Kokugikan, aka Sumo Hall, in Ryōgoku, Tokyo.
Picking Seats for Sumo
There are two types of seats available to purchase:
Box seats are closer to the action and are a higher price. You are seated on a cushion instead of a chair. You pay for the number of tickets required to fill the whole box.
Balcony seats are divided into tiers of A, B, and C. Seats higher up in section C cost less than in the A section.
Tip: The venue in Tokyo is small enough that there are not any bad seats, only closer seats with a better view of the wrestling. During my visit, I sat in section C, and the view was still great.
How To Buy Sumo Tickets
You can buy sumo tickets from Ticket Oosumo. Ticket Oosumo is an authorized ticket seller for sumo wrestling tickets.
Advanced ticket prices start at $40 for balcony seats, up to $142 for the highest priced box seats.
Same day ticket prices are $35 for balcony seats, and can only be purchased on the day of the tournament day you wish to attend.
When to Buy Sumo Wrestling Tickets
Tickets for sumo tournaments generally are available for sale approximately a month before each tournament. I purchased my tickets for the January tournament in mid-December.
It is best to buy your tickets online in advance, as they will often sell out.
Day-of tickets are available in limited quantities for a slightly reduced price, but that will require you to be at the venue early, line up, and pay in cash, as there is only approximately 100 available per tournament day.
Tip: You only need to buy tickets for a single day of a tournament to get the full experience of sumo wrestling.
Note: For Will Call tickets, you will have to pick them up on the day of the event between 8 am and 3 pm, using your credit card that you purchased the tickets with, and a piece of photo ID.
Why Should You Attend a Sumo Tournament?
Sumo wrestling is filled with tradition and Japanese rituals.
Created in Japan, it is the only country where sumo is considered a professional sport. This makes Japan the best place to watch sumo. It’s always exciting to experience something where it was created.
Talk about a unique and authentic Japanese experience!
What It’s Like – Watching Sumo Wrestling in Tokyo, Japan
I was excited when planning our trip to Japan that a sumo tournament would be happening while we were there, so of course, we had to get tickets.
I jumped at the opportunity to buy the sumo tickets as a surprise birthday gift for Patrick. When I gave him the sumo tickets on his birthday, he was so happy as it had been his one wish item to experience on our trip.
Sumo Tournament Day
We attended day 9 of the January Tokyo tournament and had purchased our tickets in mid-December.
The plan was to miss the morning matches and go to the tournament in the afternoon to watch the higher division matches. My thought was that more than 8 hours of sumo wrestling would be a lot for a first-time viewer, and with our limited time in Japan, we wanted to sightsee as much as possible.
We knew we would not want to miss the afternoon matches as those are highly recommended to attend, so we planned to sightsee in the morning and head to the sumo venue after.
Arriving at the venue, we searched for the ticket-pickup booth to get our sumo tickets. Our tickets were Will Call, so we had to pick them up on the day of the event between 8 am and 3 pm.
Tickets in hand, we found our seats and were surprised by how good the view was, even from all the way up in the balcony seats where we were sitting in Section C.
Looking around the stadium and watching the wrestlers prepare for their next match below, it was amazing to be here. We watched the sumo matches in excitement.
Sumo match by sumo match, the wrestlers would perform their pre-match rituals followed by the fight. We were amazed by how quickly the sumo matches flew by, lasting only seconds. It was as if, if you looked away for even a moment, you would miss that entire match.
We kept our eyes glued to the action. There were a couple of matches that lasted about a minute, and the one wrestler even threw his opponent out of the ring right into the crowd. Woah! That was crazy!
Every now and then, vendors would walk through the crowd, checking if viewers wanted to purchase beverages or snacks. It was quite the place to be.
With the time now near 6 pm, the tournament day was coming to an end. The daily closing show completed the day.
Everyone began to head towards the exit. In the lobby, there were cardboard cutouts of some of the sumo wrestlers that you could take your picture with. People gathered around them and took their photos, Patrick and I included. We asked someone to take one of us, and they ended up turning it into a photo shoot with plenty more than we anticipated. It was funny to look through them all, but it is better to have too many photos than none at all.
This was my first sporting game experience, and it was unforgettable!
Thoughts About Watching Sumo Wrestling in Japan
I definitely found that the four or five hours we spent watching sumo wrestling was great to get a feel of what it’s like and see the best matches of the day. It was an enjoyable experience and one I hope to share with others someday. I would definitely watch sumo wrestling again.
Hope this information helped you with watching sumo wrestling in Japan.