A guide to watching sumo wrestling in Japan

Aug 24, 2017

Mention sumo wrestling anywhere you are in the world, and people will know what you’re talking about. Or do they? Sure, people know it is Japanese. And they know it involves very large men trying to shove each other around. But there’s a lot more to this intricate sport that is steeped in tradition and rituals. If you’re visiting Japan, attending a sumo match is the stuff bucket lists are made of.

We break down everything you need to know about sumo so that you can join the select few around the globe who have the bragging rights to watching this extraordinary wrestling mania.

When to go?

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The most important detail to know about going to Japan to view sumo wrestling is that you cannot just pitch up at any time of the year and watch a tournament. Sumo wrestling tournaments are held six times a year – with one tournament in every odd-numbered month in the year. The next sumo grand tournament will be held in September at the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan (above) and will run from the 10th to the 24th. Ringside tickets will cost you around ¥15,000 (US$137). Box seats range between ¥9,000 and ¥12,000. Regular seating starts from ¥4,000 and goes up to ¥8,500. If you go in without pre-booking, you will have to pay around ¥2,200 for a general admission ticket. You can purchase tickets online here.

SEE ALSO: Learning how to be a samurai at a class in Osaka, Japan

Who to look out for?

There are a couple of high ranks that sumo wrestlers seek to achieve, with the first being ozeki and the highest level being a yokozuna. There are generally only three to seven ozeki at any given time. To become an ozeki, one has to win around 33 bouts over three consecutive tournaments. These guys can earn in excess of ¥2.5 million a month. This status can be lost and regained depending on your win and loss records. The highest honour that can be achieved in sumo is to become a yokozuna. In 400 years of sumo only around 70 wrestlers have become yokozuna. When a yokozuna starts getting a losing record, he will be forced to retire.

sumo wrestler hakuho sho

Currently, there are four yokozuna in the sumo rankings. Hakuhō Shō (above), a Mongolian, has been a yokozuna since 2007, and is quite a legend in the sport. Weighing in at 160kg, he holds the second-longest winning streak in sumo wrestling history, and is also the record-holder for having the most wins in the top division.

Harumafuji Kōhei is the third consecutive Mongolian to attain yokozuna status and only the fifth non-Japanese yokozuna. At 133kg, he is one of the lightest champions.