Sumo tournaments: how to get tickets? what time to visit?
When you visit Tokyo, one of the things you should definitely try is watching sumo bouts. Sumo tournaments are not held every day. Two-week tournaments are held in January, March, May, July, September, and November. The tournaments held in Tokyo are those in January, May, and September at Ryogoku Kokugikan. It’s a traditional arena with a capacity of over 10,000 people, and located a 1-minute walk from JR Ryogoku Station.
- Sumo is very popular, so you cannot get tickets unless done in advance.
- Sumo starts at 8 AM, but I recommend visiting the venue around 12:00.
- Ryogoku Kokugikan has many unique foods to try.
Now, let’s get started with each item!
First of all, sumo is so popular that same-day tickets are rarely sold.
Getting tickets in advance is essential. If you would like to reserve tickets in advance, please note that tickets on the official website will be sold out before the tournament begins, so please book as early as possible. Tickets go on sale approximately one month before the start of the tournament.
If you are new to sumo, I recommend sumo watching tours. It’s a tour that even first-timers can enjoy, as a tour guide explains what their techniques are and interprets what the referee is saying. Also, you may be able to book a tour a few days before the event.
There are also tours that only include tickets to the sumo match and English commentary during the match. It’s recommended if you just want to enjoy sumo, but it’s more difficult to get tickets than KKday’s tours.
Event Day Schedule
What time does sumo start? What time should I go? I will answer these questions.
Sumo is mainly held between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The timetable is as below. There is no rule that says you have to arrive by a certain time.
A gate announcer beats a drum when the gate opens.
|Juryo entrance ceremony
Check out the beautiful sumo aprons!
|Makuuchi entrance ceremony
|Yokozuna entrance ceremony
Let’s cheer along with “Yoisho”
|Makuuchi (top division) bouts
|Bow-twirling ceremony (closing ceremony)
What time to visit?
I know you want to know what time to visit the venue. My recommendation is around 12:00.
Sumo is held at the Kokugikan for a very long time, from 8 AM to 6 AM, but I think the best parts to watch sumo is after the Juryo entrance ceremony, which starts around 2:15.
You can enter Kokugikan around 12:00, tour the sumo museum inside the arena (about 20-30 minutes), try the food I’ll introduce next, take photos at various photo spots, and get to your seat before 2 PM. It gets very busy after then, and the shops and restrooms can also be crowded.
I recommend enjoying the delicacies at Ryogoku Kokugikan for lunch. Kokugikan has a lot of food like chanko, yakitori, bento, light meals and drinks. There are also a lot of souvenirs, so it’s fun just browsing them.
My first choice would be chanko. Chanko is a hot pot dish that sumo wrestlers usually eat. It is said to be an ideal meal for sumo wrestlers as it contains lots of vegetables and meat. Chanko can be eaten at the dining hall on the basement floor of the Kokugikan. They sell more than 2,000 bowls of chanko everyday, making it a very popular light meal. The taste changes depending on the week.
After eating Chanko, I recommend trying yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick) next.
Yakitori factory under the arena
Did you know that one of Japan’s largest yakitori factories is located in the basement of Kokugikan? They are making about 50,000 sticks of yakitori a day. Yakitori made there is sold at the shops on the first floor. The reason why they make yakitori in the basement of the arena is that chickens are considered lucky creatures in the sumo world. Do you know why? Chickens are creatures that walk on two legs without wings touching the ground, which is why sumo wrestlers eat chicken for good luck. Yakitori is also a popular food to accompany sumo bouts.
If you want more food, they also sell bento boxes and snacks. I love watching sumo wrestling while eating ice cream floats from the second floor kiosk.
There are also many types of souvenirs. From standard souvenirs like towels, key chains, and mugs, there are also gachas where you can get small random keepsakes.
Souvenirs are great, but in terms of mementos, I also recommend photo panels.
Face cutout photo
There are a face cutout photo spots showing a girl being held by a sumo wrestler, and a panel where you can take photos between the sumo wrestlers. When I visited Kokugikan, photo panels were on the 2nd floor outside of the door.
Sumo practice watching tour
Sumo is a hard sport and part of Japanese culture. If you enjoy watching sumo, it might be fun to take a tour to see the morning practice at the sumo stable.
This is a tour where you can watch sumo practice starting early morning around 8 AM. In the arena, the wrestlers can only be seen from a distance, but here you can see them up close. You can enjoy the impressive practice scenery. Also, some tours set a time to have a short conversation and take photos with sumo wrestlers after practice!
Netflix Sanctuary vs The Real Sumo World
Did you watch the Netflix drama series Sanctuary? It’s a show that gives a glimpse into the little-known sumo industry, and it’s also one of my favorites. In this drama, there is a scene where a senior wrestler cannot wipe his butt in the restroom because he has a big belly, so he has a junior wrestler wipe it for him.
This is absolutely NOT true! Many wrestlers said they were irritated by people who have watched Sanctuary and asked, “Is it true that you can’t wipe your butt?”
This scene represents an old Japanese superstition that wrestlers with big bellies can’t wipe their butts. Many toilets in Japan have bidets anyway! 😂