Hakkeyoi Nokotta! All About Japanese Sumo Wrestling
If I asked, “Give me 5 things that you think symbolizes Japan.” what would you say? I guarantee that most people will include Sumo as one of the five. And why not? It’s very unique to have big overweight men in fundoshi (the funny little underwear they wear) and gelled chonmage (a samuri buns) wrestling each other in a little ring isn’t it? So don’t wait any longer! Go out there and see it for yourself!
As an ex-wrestler myself, I can tell you that the rules of sumo wrestling are significantly different and also a lot simpler than freestyle wrestling. First, sumo wrestling has absolutely no weight classes. Now you can probably tell why it would be so advantageous for a wrestler to gain weight is. Second, in order to win all you have to do is either push the opponent out of the ring, also known as dohyo, or make your opponent touch the ground with any body part other than the feet. There is no point system and the wrestling time is a lot shorter than other styles of wrestling.
The history of sumo is a little more difficult to pin down. You can go to a lot of different sources and they all have slightly different stories of how the sport came about. What is fairly consistent with most sources is the fact that the sport of sumo has a connection with the Shinto religion.
It was a ritual to show strength or it was a dance to entertain the gods. Whatever it may be, to this day now sumo still have certain shinto traditions that they have upheld. The throwing of salt is a symbol of purification as well as the layer of sand coating the clay dohyo. Sumo today is not only a source of entertainment, but it is a way of holding on to tradition and culture.
Schedule & Seating Tickets
Are you more interested in watching some sumo now? Well if you are, there are six annual sumo tournaments in Japan, three of which take place in Tokyo in January, May, and September. If you’ll be in Tokyo during these times perfect! You can go online and pre purchase a ticket, or wait until the day of to buy a ticket although there is a risk of not being able to get in.
Seating can get a little complicated as well as quite expensive. If you want front row seats or more like ringside seats, you’ll have to be willing to part with almost 15,000 yen per person. There is a possibility that you get a massive sumo wrestler landing on you. So if you don’t want to spend the cash or be crushed maybe the ringside seats are not for you. But if you like the rush of not knowing whether you’re going to get smashed or not then go for it!
Then there are box seat ranking A, B, and C ( getting farther away from the ring) which seat 4 to 6 people ranging from 30,000 to 45,000 yen. These boxes are square areas with bamboo mats which makes a comfortable seat but many people bring their own cushions too.Then there are individual reserved seats you can buy that range from 3,500 to 9,000 yen.
Now if you don’t mind being on the very outskirt of the tournament and want to pay a cheaper price you can buy a general admissions ticket. This does not give you a reserved seat and it can’t be preordered. These tickets go for more or less 2,000 yen and as cheap as 200 yen for children under 16 years of age. Remember that there are 15 days of sumo wrestling per tournament so if you choose a day that’s less popular (not the beginning or end of the tournament) the tickets are usually cheaper and you’re more likely to get a seat!
Viewing Morning Practices
If you aren’t in Tokyo during those tournament days not to worry, you still have a chance to watch some sumo wrestling! Just like all other athletes, sumo wrestlers have to put hours and hours of training in too! Arashio-beya in Hamacho is where that happens. Between the hours of 6:30am and 10:30am sumo wrestlers put hard work and sweat into the art of sumo wrestling.
It’s free to watch, just be respectful of the wrestlers and refrain from talking and taking flash photography. Because practices can always change times if you’d like to call in advance to make sure practice is going on, call the night before between 4pm and 8pm. The number is +81-(0)3-3666-7646 but they only speak Japanese so make sure to have a Japanese friend call for you or practice your lines before calling
Whatever the occasion is, you won’t regret taking the extra time to go watch some sumo wrestling. It’ll be a lot of fun and you’ll get a taste of true Japanese culture and tradition.