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Sumo Wrestling in Tokyo: Tickets & Info [2023]

Interested in watching Sumo wrestling in Tokyo? Learn all you need to know about this unique sport – including where to get your tickets – before grabbing a seat to see the show! 

Japanese sumo wrestling is incredibly popular in Tokyo, and a must if you have time when in town. This ancient sport, which dates back to around the 2nd century BC, is Japan’s most popular one, and a very interesting activity to enjoy during your trip. 

Sumo is essentially a wrestling sport reserved to men which takes place in an open ring covered in a tight mix of clay and sand, and which lasts a mere few seconds – or one minute at most – per contest. 

The sport is so widely enjoyed by both locals and tourists that there are multiple tournaments throughout the year. You may be in luck and visit during one of them.

Watching a sumo match was on my Japan bucket list, and I was so happy when I discovered that my visit coincided with one of the grand tournaments in Tokyo. I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity!

Read on to discover how to enjoy sumo wrestling in Tokyo – from where to get your tickets to this year’s tournament’s calendar, and in-depth information about the history and rules of this popular event. 

A Brief History of Sumo

So, what is Sumo Wrestling? Sumo is Japan’s major sport, and it has been since approximately the 2nd century BC, during the Yayoi period. It’s believed to have originated as a form of entertainment for Shinto deities or even as a ritual, as many of its practices are closely linked to the Shinto religion. 

Whether the fighters were summoning or challenging the spirits, there is an undeniable connection between the sport and the devotees’ worshiping traditions

Performed in front of emperors for their amusement, during a period of time one of the wrestlers would lose their life at the end of the competition, although nowadays the contests are much more amiable. 

Sumo is even present in mythological tales, which tell about the act of wrestling to settle arguments or disputes between gods. 

Sumo literally means striking one another, and that’s what the sport is all about: two wrestlers trying to tackle each other. 

While it’s possible that Sumo has evolved throughout the centuries – it’s been a thing for over 2 thousand years, after all! – many of its rules remain the same, and it’s still as favored by the public as ever. 

Sumo Tournaments in Tokyo: When and Where

Official Sumo Tournaments take place in Tokyo three times a year, in January, May, and September, at the National Sumo Stadium, Ryogoku Kokugikan. 

Each tournament lasts 15 days and there are usually contests throughout the day, with the lowest-ranking wrestlers fighting in the morning and the highest-ranking ones in the evening.

Tickets are released approximately one month prior to the event. You might want to book yours in advance to make sure to snatch good seats.

In 2023, the tournament dates are the following: 

  • First Tournament: January 8th to 22nd. 
  • Second Tournament: May 14th to 28th.
  • Third Tournament: September 10th to 24th. 

There are three more tournaments happening every year, although these take place in other Japanese cities. The March tournament happens in Osaka, there’s one in July in Nagoya, and one in November in Fukuoka. 

How To Buy Tickets for Sumo Wrestling in Tokyo

There are two types of tickets you can get for Sumo Wrestling: Box Seats or Balcony Seats.

▶ Box seats are more expensive, as they’re closer to the ring, and slightly more comfortable than the regular seats, featuring cushions and prime views of the show. Box seats accommodate 4 to 6 people, so you’ll have to buy that many tickets when choosing this seat. In my opinion, it’s only worth it if you’re in a group. 

Balcony seats are farther from the action but still offer great views of the ring as they’re in a higher position. They are divided into tiers and prices vary depending on how close (or far) you are from the ring. 

I was sitting in a B-class balcony seat and although the ring looked far at first glance, I actually had a great view and could clearly see everything that was going on.

You can book your Sumo tickets in Tokyo directly on the official website, or join a tour.

👉 I personally think it’s much better to join a tour in this case. When you go on a tour, rather than only receiving the tickets you’ll also get a guide who will explain what is going on and do some live commentary, which makes the experience a lot more understanding and less confusing. Otherwise, it can be hard to grasp what’s happening in the ring

The BEST Sumo Tournament Experience in Tokyo

The Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament Viewing is the ultimate sumo experience in the city. This tour includes tickets to witness Japan’s greatest sport in one of its main arenas and a guide that will give you detailed information about sumo before and during the matches.

⚠️ Sometimes, this tour will be unavailable on Viator. It only becomes available about a month before each tournament, so if you’re looking to book it, add a reminder to your calendar. This tour is extremely popular, so make sure to book it in advance! When we went on the tour, it was sold out already a week prior to the start of the tournament.

I knew I wanted to experience the sumo culture while in Japan, and I was so excited when Viator invited me to experience the grand tournament and review it.

Joining a tour to watch the tournament is not mandatory – you could buy the tickets yourself. However, being accompanied by our guide Yoko was invaluable. She first introduced us to the sumo culture before heading to the stadium. She explained the rules and how the tournament worked and gave us fun facts about the wrestlers.

Once inside the stadium, we visited the small Sumo museum, before being led to our seats. During the whole tournament, gave us explanations and was ready to answer our questions if we didn’t understand something.

⚠️ Having explanations was the key to enjoying the whole experience. I personally think we wouldn’t have enjoyed it if we had gone on our own, as we wouldn’t have understood anything of what was happening!!

Once in the stadium, you’ll watch approximately 40 matches, which gives you more than enough time to understand what is going on before the highest-ranking wrestlers fight in the late afternoon.

All in all, you’ll be at the stadium for about 4 hours. If you’re a first-timer, the experience can feel a bit long if you stay sitting in your seat the whole time. However, you absolutely don’t want to miss the last 20 matches as they are the most engaging ones.

I recommend going to your seat, watching a couple of the first few matches, and then immediately going to grab food and drinks. The lines are long and you don’t want to be in line when the best matches are going on!

Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament Viewing Experience

This tour includes: Tickets for the Sumo Tournament, museum visit, seats in the B-Class section, and a knowledgeable guide. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

👉 If you’re looking for a shorter or more dynamic experience, check out below some alternative sumo activities.

Other Great Sumo Experiences in Tokyo

But what if there is no tournament when I’m in Tokyo? I still want to watch sumo!

I got you! Don’t despair, there are some other super fun activities you can join all year long. In fact, if you’re a person who enjoys doing rather than watching, this might be the best fit anyway.

These fantastic sumo wrestling Tokyo tours let you become a sumo wrestler for a day, which is ultimate sumo experience. 

▶️ Joining the Morning Practice at a Sumo Stable in Tokyo is a great way to get up close to the wrestlers and understand the sport more in-depth before attending a Sumo match in Tokyo’s stadium. You’ll visit a training center with a guide and watch the behind-the-scenes of the famous sport, as wrestlers train, go over the rules, and practice their techniques. 

Watch Morning Practice at a Sumo Stable in Tokyo

This tour includes: A local guide, and access to the Sumo training center. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

▶️The Challenge Sumo Wrestlers experience is for wrestlers-wanna-be! On this sumo stable tour, you’ll eat, train, and dress like the rikichi, and even gain some weight with heavy costumes that will make you look like a Sumo expert.  

You’ll learn the history and rules behind the sport, and try your hand at it fighting a retired wrestler. The tour includes a filling hotpot meal, the food that wrestlers usually eat, and a live demonstration of Sumo. You’ll even take home a souvenir photo! 

Challenge Sumo Wrestlers and Enjoy Lunch

This tour includes: Lunch, wrestling class, and fight. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

▶️ Finally, the Secrets of Sumo Culture tour allows you to get close and personal with this ancient practice, as you enjoy a comprehensive half-day tour around the city. You’ll learn about the sport’s history and all of its rituals, watch a sumo training in Tokyo, and even try some of the movements yourself! 

You’ll be accompanied by a knowledgeable guide and enjoy personalized attention since the tour runs with small groups. 

Secrets of Sumo Culture

This tour includes: A local tour guide. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Sumo Rules Explained

The rules of Sumo Wrestling in a nutshell are the following: two wrestlers challenge each other on a ring, and the first one to set foot outside the ring, or to touch the ring’s floor with any body part that’s not his feet, loses. 

The winner will take home various prizes from the sponsors, which are advertised on colorful banners before the match. The banners are paraded around the ring, and the more prizes there are, the more exciting the contest becomes for the public. 

The Sumo wrestling match doesn’t start in the ring, however. There are certain rituals, which date back to the origins of the sport, that wrestlers have to perform before the contest. These include bowing to the competitor, foot stomping, and receiving power water and paper from the victorious wrestler of the previous bout. 

Once in the ring, it’s up to the wrestlers (known as rikishi) when to begin, and the match ends when one of them touches the floor or gets pushed from the ring. Usually, the rituals can last 3-10 minutes per match, while the match itself can be as short as 2-3 seconds! Even the best matches will be shorter than one minute.

Once the match ends, the contenders bow to each other, and after the loser leaves the winner receives his prize. There is no score counting in sumo, and there are no tied bouts: there’s always a winner. 

As for the equipment used during a match, there is none. Wrestlers can only wear a mawashi to cover their intimate parts and usually wear their long hair in a tight knot. 

Sumo Wrestling in Tokyo FAQs

Can you watch sumo wrestling in Tokyo?

Yes, you can certainly watch a Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo, as long as you’re there in January, May, or September, which is when the tournament takes place. I recommend joining a tour like this one where a guide will explain to you how the tournament works – trust me, you won’t understand anything otherwise!

What are the best sumo tours in Tokyo? 

Below you’ll find the tours that I consider to be the best to experience sumo in Tokyo: 
• Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament
• Morning Practice Tokyo Sumo Training Tour
• Sumo Practice Tokyo Tour 
• Secrets of Sumo Culture

Where can I buy Sumo wrestling tickets in Tokyo?

You can get your tickets online, or join a tour for the ultimate Tokyo Sumo experience.

Where to watch Sumo wrestling in Japan?

The Tokyo Sumo arena is called Ryogoku Kokugikan, and it’s where the tournaments take place. 

Disclaimer: I was invited by Viator to experience and review this activity. However, all opinions are my own.

  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.