Since we are in the midst of the Summer Basho (aka summer tournament), I thought it would be appropriate to write an article about Sumo now. Sumo is THE official sport of Japan and I would highly recommend it as it is a sport enriched with religious and cultural traditions.
WHEN & WHERE?
So your first question may be, when & where can I watch it?! It slightly changes every year, but this website shows you the exact schedule of the tournament (basho) in 2019. They run six times per year throughout the country. Sumo always takes place in specliased sumo stadiums and the venue changes per basho, so check the website for when & where.
If you want to see sumo during the non-tournament season, you can either check out a morning practice, which I highly recommend or you can go see non-tournament matches (find more information on that here).
SEATING ARRANGEMENT AND PRICE?
Ringside seats are closest to the action and costs around 150 USD per seat. These are very hard to book and can only be bought by phone (Japanese only ><). If you are lucky enough to get one of these seats, remember that no children or anybody with limited mobility are allowed to sit here, as there is risk of injury when the wrestler (rikishi) may fall off the stage (dohyo).
Then, there are box seats for 2 to 6 people. Note that these are floor seats with cushions. You'd need to remove your shoes and sit on the floor - which may be challenging for some foreigners, especially because there isn't much space and you'll find your legs go numb after a while. It costs about 100 USD per person and you'd have to buy all seats in the box even if your party is smaller. So if you don't mind spending few hundred dollars and want the real Sumo experience, these seats are for you!
Alternatively there are regular chair seats which go from 40 to 80 USD, depending on the proximity to dohyo.
WHATS THE RULE?
There are no weight divisions in sumo. So you may find two very different sized rikishis competing each other. The rule is simple - the first rikishi who touches the ground with any part of their body, or is forced outside the inner circle of the dohyo is defeated. So the match can be finished in a matter of seconds, which makes this a super entertaining sport to watch.
WHEN DOES IT START?
A sumo tournament runs for the full day, sometimes starting as early as 8:30am. Because the tournament runs on a ranking system, Japanese audience will usually come starting at around 2pm, when the higher ranked rishikis start. It also means that even if you have cheaper ticket, you can come early and enjoy seeing the Sumo close up, as long as you are respectful and not be in the seat of the actual ticket holders when they arrive. The climax of the event is the final match which happens around 6pm, where the two champion of the tournament compete!
FOOD AND DRINK?
It's an event where people eat and booze, A LOT! you can either bring food from home or buy on site. But whatever you do, be ready to spend the afternoon boozing with Japanese fans!