Thrills and Tradition: My Firsthand Sumo Experience in Tokyo

Thrills and Tradition: My Firsthand Sumo Experience in Tokyo

Experiencing the raw energy and tradition of a sumo wrestling match in Tokyo has been on my bucket list since arriving. After attending my first one this week I hope it’s not my last. Sumo is a top-ten Tokyo experience! It’s an event that combines athletic prowess with deep cultural roots, making it a must-do. Held in Tokyo during January, May, and September, these tournaments offer a unique glimpse into a world where sport meets ceremony.

Getting the Tickets:
Buying tickets for the sumo tournament can seem daunting. I attempted it back in September when we first arrived and was put off by the complications. Luckily, a Japanese friend in our group took care of the details this time and guided me through how to do it on my own. I recommend using this helpful guide in English. Choosing seats can be daunting. We opted for chair seats over the traditional on-the-ground seats, which are closer to the action but can be uncomfortable. The ladies I went with had all tried the floor seats and did not recommend them for those not accustomed to sitting for hours on the floor. We booked a bit late and ended up in one of the last rows in the stadium, but let me tell you, there’s not a bad seat in the house!

The Lead-Up to the Match:
Our sumo day started with a traditional Chanko hot pot lunch, a staple in the diet of sumo wrestlers. Chanko Nabe, loaded with a variety of meats, fish, and vegetables, is not just a delicious meal; it’s a glimpse into the hearty eating habits that help sumo wrestlers maintain their formidable size. There are plenty of restaurants around the stadium where you can indulge in this sumo staple. It’s great for sharing as a group.

The Sumo Museum and Souvenirs:
You won’t want to miss the small museum inside the stadium. It’s like stepping into a room filled with sumo history and is a great place to get your stamp if you’re collecting those while in Japan. On the second floor, you’ll find a pop-up shop for sumo merchandise. From towels representing various wrestlers to other memorabilia, it’s a treasure trove for fans. Do not leave this visit for the end, once the match is over everything shuts down quickly.

Choosing a Wrestler to Support:
Another important part of the visit is picking a wrestler to support. There is a small shop on the 2nd floor that sports towels for each of the wrestlers in the top tiers. I picked a towel in bright green and yellow, representing Wakamotoharu, a sumo wrestler from a family of renowned wrestlers. To my delight, he won his match that day, making my cheering and support all the more exciting. Choosing a wrestler to root for definitely enhances the whole experience. I highly recommend it!

The Sumo Experience:
Once we were done shopping, we headed to a small kombini inside the stadium where you can grab drinks and snacks. Watching the sumo matches while munching on Japanese snacks added an extra layer of fun to the experience. The sumo matches themselves are relatively quiet, filled with rituals and ceremonies. It’s fascinating to watch, especially if you’re with someone who can explain the nuances of the sport.

Understanding Sumo:
Sumo wrestling is more than just strength; it’s a strategic battle where a wrestler loses if they touch the ground with anything other than their feet or get pushed out of the ring. The mix of power, strategy, and ceremony is mesmerizing. Most matches are over fairly quickly, the ceremony portion taking longer than the actual match, but a few went on for more than a minute, and many of them ended with wrestlers falling into the crowd. (Another reason not to get the floor seats!)

Conclusion:
My sumo experience was more than just watching a sport; it was immersing myself in a significant part of Japanese culture. Whether you’re a long-time fan or a curious traveler, a day at the sumo tournament is an unforgettable experience. And remember, pick a wrestler to support – it makes the matches even more thrilling!

I had such a good time that I even brought home a stuffed sumo of my own!

Although we have not tried it yet The Sumo Experience has come highly recommended by my girlfriends here. I’m just waiting to book a time when the kids can join us.


Have you ever experienced sumo wrestling in Japan, or is it on your bucket list? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow my blog for more travel stories and tips.



1 thought on “Thrills and Tradition: My Firsthand Sumo Experience in Tokyo”

  • This was a great description! It reminded me of being at the same tournament a year ago with my son. We had nosebleed seats in almost the same section. My grainy iPhone photos look almost the same as yours. Luckily my son had been training judo in Tokyo & could explain a lot of the bouts and the standings. My biggest takeaway is that referees in all sports should dress like wizards just like in Sumo. I enjoyed the event immensely – much more than I expected – and I would pay for closer seats in one of the boxes next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.