Sumo Wrestling in Japan

One of the most popular sports in Japan is Sumo wrestling. In fact, when we hear about sumo wrestling, the first thing that comes into our mind is Japan. Sumo is a Japanese style of wrestling and Japan’s national sport. Sumo originated way back in ancient times as an entertaining performance to the Shinto deities.

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Let’s now jump into the game! The rules are simple: the first to get outside the ring loses. That is why most sumo wrestlers gained a lot of weight to match off their opponents. But can we just say that anyone who can gain weight can play the game? The answer is no! Sumo wrestling takes a lot of training and there’s a ranking hierarchy or called banzuke which classifies all sumo wrestlers.

Ranking Hierarchy

Each win moves up the record of the wrestler and loses puts you down. This means wrestlers with a positive record with more wins than losses move up the hierarchy while those with negative records get demoted. The sumo hierarchy is the top division that is called “Makuuchi”, the second division is called “Juryo” and the grand champion is called “yokozuna”. Unlike wrestlers in lower ranks, a yokozuna cannot be demoted, but he will be expected to retire when his performance begins to worsen.

See a Sumo Tournament

The best way to see sumo is to attend a sumo tournament. There are three types of seats for those who want to see the tournaments.

Ringside seats: This gives the viewer an up-close look at the game where ticket holders sit on cushions on the floor.  Ringside seats are most expensive and easily sold out so better purchase in advance through the official vendors. But the downside of this location is it is exposed to the risk of injury due to wrestlers flying into the spectators.

Box seats: These are the traditional Japanese-style box seats seated by four people.  Shoes are removed, and viewers sit on cushions. Box seats are classified into A, B, and C boxes according to distance to the ring.

Balcony seats: These seats are also classified into A, B and C boxes according to distance to the ring.  These are the cheapest seats you can avail of.

Visit a Sumo Stable

Another way to appreciate sumo besides attending a tournament is to visit a sumo stable to witness the sumo wrestler’s morning practice session. Sumo stables are where the wrestlers live and train together by close the monitor of the stable master. Tourists who are visiting sumo stables must be accompanied by a person who is fluent in Japanese and is familiar with the customs of the sumo world. Visitors also should follow the house rules strictly and not disturb the training session.

Ryogoku’s Attractions

Sumo Museum
Located inside the Kokugikan sumo stadium.  This small museum houses exhibitions about sumo that includes the collection of portraits of past and present yokozuna, pictures of significant events in the history of sumo, and ceremonial aprons worn by retired prominent wrestlers.

Ekoin Temple
Sumo tournaments were usually held here before the first sumo stadium was built in 1909.  You can see a stone monument on the temple grounds that honors past wrestlers and stable masters.

Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine
A popular site that sumo tournaments were held for about a hundred years during the mid-Edo Period (1603-1867).  This shrine grounds monuments on which the names of past and present yokozuna and ozeki, the second-highest rank of sumo.  The museum is usually locked but can be opened thru advance reservation.


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