Updated on March 19, 2019


> _ < When anyone thinks about sports in Japan, he thinks about Sumo. For those who are interested, you can only watch it here, what I think is a funny and recommended experience if going for a while… because otherwise, it becomes the most soporific and slow show I’ve watched in my life.

Combate Sumo
There are no weight categories, but the biggest not always wins

Sumo is a Japanese contact sport, it is intended that the opponent steps out of the ring or touches the ground with any part of his body but his feet. Associated to Buddhist rituals like a representation about fighting demons, the truth is that for centuries it maintains its popularity in Japan. Top fighters are as famous or more than any top level sportsman, and Japanese often joke they are the only thick men in the country with overwhelming success among women. Not without regrets, most are required to live intern under the supervision of the Japan Sumo Association, where they are subjected to strict control of training, diet, dress and behavior.


The exact day changes every season, but the appointments are as it follows:

  • January: Tokyo
  • March: Osaka
  • May: Tokyo
  • July: Nagoya
  • September: Tokyo
  • November: Fukuoka


Prices depend on two factors:

  • The chosen seat.
    Asientos de Box
    “Box” mid-priced seats
    • The most expensive are those around the ring. You have to be sitting on a cushion, and viewers assume the possible risk that one or both of the fighters fall on them and ends up under 300 kg Japanese fat of the highest quality.
    • The intermediate are the Box ones. The problem is that mandatory you have to buy 4.
    • The cheapest are the last top rows, called balcony.
    • There is one last type of ticket, the “Same Day Ticket” that can only be purchased at the stadium the same day. It is the cheapest one. You are allowed  to sit on one of the last 3 rows. It is the one I bought, it’s quite far away but just for once is more than acceptable.
  • The city where you attend: Fukuoka has the biggest stadium, so there are cheaper tickets because in the last row you’ll be even farther.
Kokugikan, Tokio
The Kokugikan stadium in Tokyo

Prices in 2019, that vary depnding on the row and as we have already said, the city, being Osaka and Nagoya more expensive and Tokyo and Fukuoka cheaper:

  • One Arena ticket:
    • A from 12,200 to 5,200 ¥.
    • B between 8,400 and 3,500 ¥.
    • C between 7,100 and 2,500 ¥.
  • One Box: 
    • A 13,200 to 12,300 ¥.
    • B 13,200 to 11,100 ¥.
    • C 11,200 to 10,000 ¥.
    • D 7,900 ¥.
  • In the farthest row, depending on the stadium, between ¥ 5,300 and ¥ 3,700 in Tokyo and Fukuoka. In addition, there is a category in Fukuoka even closer to the ring (¥ 17,000).

The tournaments last two weeks. Prices are the same for any day and because of this, the early days often are tickets to spare, but for the latter, or during weekends, several days earlier all tickets will be sold out.

They can be bought in stores 24/7, online in or at the stadium itself. Once you buy the entrance you can enter the stadium at the time you want. I remember you can leave and re-enter, but only once.

Fighters will face one versus one league system, and there are three divisions. Those in first (Makuuchi) and second (Juryo) divisions compete once a day; Lower, several times a day. According to their results, they get a ranking for the next tournament. The best fighter of the season is named Yokozuna, or grand champion. When a fighter is named Yokozuna never loses the title and cannot be demoted, but they resign themselves if their physical condition declines. This is why it may be more than one Yokozuna at a time.

One of the two Yokozuna in May 2013 tournament in the center, wearing his identifying clothing, performing a ceremony prior to the start of the fighting in the Makuuchi category


Starts at 8:30 or 9 with the lower division bouts. These combats are developed quickly, there is little preparation; the contestants climb into the ring, are presented by the referee, they greet, throw salt on the ground, bend over and BAM!, they attack. This is very welcome because the average length of a sumo bout is only 6 seconds.

Unfortunately there are hardly any public at this time because no one can withstand an entire day at the stadium, so viewers reserve themselves for senior fighters. On the other hand, these combats, requiring less preparation and paraphernalia, are the most dynamic and entertaining.

At 15:00 th second category, the Juryo, start fighting. The stadium is starting to get full progressively. Still, having a look all around me, there was no one, including myself, that at some point in the tournament did not cast a nap.

Luchadores presentándose al público
The Juryo introducing themselves before starting the competition

And at 16:00 the Makuuchi bouts start. At this time, as a viewer, an internal struggle was killing me:

  • On the one hand, you want to stay to see the Yokozuna, they are the great champions, even more after a very long day at the stadium.
  • On the other, the damned first class fighters have a habit of preparing for about 5 minutes while greeting, dropping salt to the floor, now I bend down, I concentrate, I want my face to look bad to intimidate the opponent, oh no I’m inattentive, I get up, I go back my corner, I think again, I concentrate, yes I am now concentrated again, throw more salt to the soil, I bent down, looked at him, he has intimidated me so I get up again … The first combat, OK I can handle it; the second, fine I can do with it; the third I started to feel pissed off; by the tenth combat you’re about to get up and scream them or leave incensed because they never finish, but of course, you do not go because Yokozunas are the last to fight … for 6 seconds.

Therefore, my recommendation is that sumo is another attraction, unique in Japan and can be very interesting and entertaining, but definitely you should choose between watching many bouts in the morning or few in the afternoon. Going all day will make you beg for you own Harakiri.


∇ Destinations / ∇ Japan / ∇ Tokyo

4 thoughts on “SUMO

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