It’s Sumo Time!

It is May, so the next round of Sumo Tournaments are here in Tokyo. Starting today, it will run for 15 days, finishing on Sunday 22 May. 

I have blogged about our Sumo trip before, and the full post is below. 

Should you head out to Ryogoku Kokugikan, please do let me know your experience.


Apologies that the photo quality isn’t that great- it was a bit far for my flash to have much effect.

Sumo Wrestling is something that I’ve grown up thinking of as very Japanese- it is a national sport a national sport! So when we had the opportunity to go to a tournament, it was one of those ‘No Brainer’ Moments.

We didn’t feel that we could attend without doing some research about the sport, and so to help you along here is a little taster….

Sumo wrestling is an official Japanese sport and an important part of Japanese history, originating in a ritualized performance for the Shintu Gods.

The wrestlers (or rikishi) wear a mawashi which consists of a long strip of heavy silk or canvas that is folded several times and wrapped around the body in a specific way. I couldn’t find any guidelines as to how the wrapping is done and I would be intrigued to find out how they do it as there were no ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ despite parts coming lose in some of the bouts.

The sumo ring is approximately 15 feet in diameter that is raised about 2 1/2 feet off the ground on a huge block of clay called a dohyo. Round the edge of the ring is a tawara, which is made of tightly wound straw and it is raised up by about 3 inches. A light sprinkling of sand is applied inside of the ring. At the start of each tournament a new dohyo is created. Five judges (shinpan) sit round the dohyo. A gyoji or referee officiates the bout and announces the winner at the end.

There are no rules about how to wrestle other than the first rikishi to step out of the ring or put any body part other than their feet on the floor loses. As a result most of bouts last between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. In fact we found when we were watching was that the longest part of the bout was the foot stamping ritual at the beginning of the bout. From a spectator point of view it seemed like they were trying to intimidate their opponent.

I had a wonderous ‘Lost in Translation’ moment when I bought our tickets as I bought them from a convenience store with the assistance of the check out assistant. His English was as good as my Japanese! (Something I need to change!) Anyway- I landed up buying the box tickets which take 4 people and cost a small fortune. When I researched the website again and I saw what the box was like and where it was, I knew that we had to do something different… (The box was a tatami mat {ie no chairs}that seated 4 {we were 5} and quite close to the front {with 3 children that could be a problem}) The tickets were non-returnable, but a friend bought them off me and took his parents who were visiting from the UK.

We then bought the cheap tickets at Y1,000 (about £8). Our seats were at the top of the stadium and non reserved so we struggled a bit to find 5 free. The advantages of these seats were that we didn’t feel stressed when the children got noisy, there were no arm rests so the children were more comfortable and there was a large floor area round the seats so J could play with his cars comfortably and the girls could draw. It was also easy to get in and out, so when we needed a loo break or a running-along-the-corridor break, we didn’t disturb anyone. The reserved seats were closer,had a little table (like an aeroplane) and armrests and understandably cost more (Y2,000). Personally we will use the unreserved again as they were the most suitable for the children.

There are stalls that sell food and drink- but like all these type of events they were rather over priced and very Japanese (just a word of warning if you don’t like Japanese style food and drink)

To keep our little ones entertained, we bought snacks for them to nibble on and a variety of activities (drawing, etch boards, cars etc) and it seemed to work. We also didn’t go for the entire day, but for the afternoon. We missed the introduction of the wrestlers, but we saw the champion receive his trophy at the end. I found it rather entertaining that the music played at the award ceremony was an instrumental version of an Easter hymn- Thine Be the Glory!

The Sumo Hall in Tokyo (Ryogoku Kokugikan) is within a 2 minute walk from the Ryogoku Station on the JR Sobu Line.

The next tournament is in Osaka from 10-25 March and the next one in Tokyo is in May. I would highly recommend a trip- even if you have children in tow. If you want to find out more about purchasing tickets and the dates of the various tournament, visit the official Sumo website and if you would like to know more about the tradition and rules then visit Sumo Talk.
We had a lovely afternoon and if you venture to Sumo with kids, I hope you’ll get in touch and share your experince too.

About Cheryl

I am a child of God, a wife and a mother of 4 children. Some days are good. Some days are frustrating. Some days are just plain insane. In between the mayhem, I loved to go for walks with our mutt, potter in the garden and enjoy the beauty that surrounded us. That all changed in August 2012 when we waved goodbye to our mutt and garden, our eldest at Uni in Gloucester and moved to Tokyo for 4 months. And yes- we are still here...
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