Grand Sumo Tournament
The Grand Sumo Tournament is an event that occurs 6 times a year in Japan. 3 of those sumo tournaments are in Tokyo and if you're here at the right time of year, are a must see event.
The Making Of A Sumo Grand Champion
If you really want to get a feel for Japanese culture during your Tokyo stay, this is one opportunity that will get you up close and personal with what makes Japanese people tick. It also happens to be a great family day out with some perfect photo opportunities to record your vacation memories.
Winning the prestigious title of "Yokozuna" or Grand Champion is a celebrated and much sought after position. With it comes a range of lucrative sponsorship deals, prize money and the Emperor's Cup.
In recent years the title has been held by the Mongolian wrestler Hakuho. In May 2008, however, Japanese sumo wrestling saw the birth of it's first European champion. The Bulgarian wrestler Kotooshu.
While you're at the tournment check out the Japanese Sumo Wrestling Museum that's on site and free to enter.
Where is the Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo?
Near the Sumida river is an area called Ryogoku. Here you will find the sumo wrestling arena called Kokugikan.
This is where all 3 Tokyo Grand Sumo Touraments take place. If you take the JR Sobu Line to Ryogoku station it is easy to find as it's literally just outside the main exit on your right. The other option is to take the Toei Oedo Line. Kokugikan is about a 5 minute walk from exit A4.
The Kokugikan (National Sumo Arena) is easy to spot. Just look for the row of colourful flags fluttering in the breeze on the street and you've found the main entrance. Each flag has the name of one of the participants written on it and the display is all part of the pomp that surrounds the 2 week event.
Also near the entrance you'll see a 16m tower that contains a drum. This is for the taiko uchiwake - a drum that is played in the morning to announce the start of each day and to draw people to the event. It is also played later in the day to inform people that the final bouts are taking place.
Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament Dates and Costs
When does the Grand Sumo Tournament take place in Tokyo? The months of January, May and September see this 2 week spectacle taking place in Tokyo.
The exact dates change from year to year according to the calendar. For up to date information see the Nihon Sumo Kyokai official website.
The seating inside the arena is in typical rising circular tiers. On the first level you don't buy tickets for seats but for a box, and you need to sit on the floor for this one. This is the most expensive option with prices around ¥12,000, but this includes goodie bags, food and drinks throughout the day. For most Westerners this is not a good option as an attack of pins and needles will have you shifting from one cramped position to another.
The second and third tiers are seated and much more comfortable. The cheapest seats are in the top tier with prices rising as you get closer to the ring. I have always bought the cheapest tickets - about ¥3,500 for advance booking, and had a fantastic time.
When To Catch The Sumo Wrestling Highlights
When you visit the Grand Sumo Tournament, take the time to have a wander round outside.
One of my favourite sights is of a sumo wrestler walking down the street with his buddies dressed in yukata. Tokyo is most definitely a modern city but during these events you get some real flash back moments when you can imagine what it might have been like in yonder year.
Enjoy the shouts of "Washoi!" as fans roar on their favourite sumo wrestler. There is a great atmosphere inside the arena, especially after 3pm as the more senior wrestlers enter the ring.
The day starts with the junior and less experienced wrestlers and finishes with the biggest fights of the day around 6pm. If you don't want to spend the whole day watching sumo, our tip is to be there between 3 - 6pm.