Hello everyone! I hope you are having a great month!
If you haven’t heard already, the month of May this year played a huge role in Japan. On the 1st, Japan transitioned from the Heisei Period into the new Reiwa Era 令和. This era in particular is important as this is the first (since 1817!) where an Emperor has been abdicated from the royal throne. The change has conjured up within the Japanese people many feelings of the past, along with hopes for what the new period will bring…so what better way to celebrate this event than to watch some Sumo wrestling!
As many of you know, one of the main religions in Japan is Shinto 神道 or “The way of the God”. In order to appease the ancient Kami, the sport of Sumo wrestling was created and in today’s matches, there are still many religious undertones present. During the match, I kept noticing that the wrestlers would throw salt into the ring. Through doing some research, I learned that this act was used in order to purify the space, and that by doing so, this would allow the athletes to “perform the ritual”. Secondly, the athletes would clap and stomp around the area very loudly, which could be a nod to an ancient tale in the Nihon Shoki, where the Sun Goddess, Amatarasu, would move in the same manner after hearing news that her brother was arriving to visit her.
I’ve always read stories and watched documentaries about Sumo Wrestling as a child, but I never got the chance to do so during my stay in Japan during 2017. It only took two years later, but TODAY I finally checked off this box from my bucket list. Below, I’ll be talking about the logistics involved with attending one of these cultural phenomenons.
The Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament is held at the Ryogoku Kokugikan until May 26th meaning, if you are reading my blog on the 23rd, then you’ll only have three days to attend this event. However, don’t worry if you can’t make it to the Tokyo event! There will be a similar tournament in Nagoya during July.
How do I buy the tickets?
My friends and I were unfortunately unable to book tickets in advanced for the tournament, which meant two things. One, we would still be able attend the event, but only through purchasing tickets sold the same day of the tournament. And two, in order to do that, we would have to wake up at an ungodly hour to line up to even TRY to purchase these elusive tickets.
Well, we ending up going through with this plan. We arrived around 6:20am (after a very much late start from ICU) at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, and despite the fact the tickets don’t go on sale until 7:45am, we ending up being given the 181st ticket out of the 400 tickets available that day.
It costs about 2200 yen or $22 CASH and included seats on Row 14, which are the unreserved seats throughout the stadium. Yes, these are what you would consider “Nose-bleed seats”, but it was still a great deal considering the floor tickets can cost up to 15000 yen or $150! So moral of the story, if you want the cheap tickets, consider sacrificing some hours of precious sleep/your dignity! It’ll be worth it in the end.
I absolutely loved my Sumo Wrestling experience; however, I will say it was a bit slow in the beginning as the events were split up throughout the day. The time slots consisted of the preliminary, the Juryo and the Makuuchi boats. During the preliminaries, we saw hardly any people around the stadium, which was nice as we were able to get a closer look at the Sumos. These men ranged from skinny to muscular to outright BIG and it was amazing to see all of the different techniques they used, depending on the size of their competitor.
The highlight of the event, of course, was seeing the Makuuchi perform, who were the top-division wrestlers. The stadium was completely full around 15:00 as the men started filing in, and you could feel the excitement from everyone in the room. Our group was able to understand a majority of the Japanese used during the matches, but there are translating devices sold on the bottom floor of the stadium for foreigners who are just coming to Japan to visit.
Overall, I’m so grateful to had have this experience and it has made me appreciate the sport so much more.If you are in Japan, I 100% recommend you attend a Sumo Wrestling event at least once in your life.