How To Befriend A Sumo On Your Visit To Japan

Sumo is a popular style of Japanese wrestling that began many centuries ago. As the nation’s oldest professional sport, it comes as no surprise that Sumo is established on a strong foundation of deep tradition and culture. If you plan on traveling to Japan anytime soon, it would be worth the time to watch a match or two. Although, professional sumo is broadcast live on television, the in-person experience – featuring intense bouts and shouting fans – will make your trip to Japan memorable, if not unforgettable. Who knows…you may even befriend a Sumo. Here’s how:

The sport of professional sumo is governed by the Japan Sumo Association, which holds six tournaments annually, each of which lasts for 15 days. Tickets for the event can be purchased through the official vendor, via, at convenience stores, or even at the actual stadium.

In order to befriend a Sumo wrestler, ideally, you’d want to sit as close as possible to the ring. Box seats and balcony seats offer a good enough view, but ringside seats will provide an entirely immersive experience. Plan to purchase your tickets earlier, as they go on sale a month before the start of each tournament and ringside tickets are difficult to obtain. Just a word of caution: viewers sitting by the ringside might be exposed to injury, since wrestlers can fly into the crowd. In the event that this happens, seize the opportunity to acquaint yourself with your potential new best friend.

Outside of the ring, there are also various institutions, such as schools, that maintain sumo clubs. A sumo stable, however, is the best way to appreciate the sport. This is where wrestlers live and train, and thus, visitors will have a chance to witness their daily life. However, only a small number of stables are open to tourists, and it is highly recommended that a fluent Japanese speaker is present at the time of a visit. Various companies also offer guided tours, but all visitors should make sure to follow the rules strictly. How else can you expect to get friendly with a sumo?

Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with the art of sumo wrestling, get an intimate look at Japan in James Bernal’s “Japan | 日本”: