We were determined to view a sumo wrestling match during our first trip to Japan. There were no tournaments that month so we took a very early train ride into a non-touristy part of Tokyo to watch the wrestlers practice at a sumo stable. As luck would have it, practice was canceled that day. Fortunately, our next trip to Tokyo was during a Sumo Grand Tournament and we had a chance to view Japan’s national sport.
If you are interested in watching a sumo wrestling tournament in Tokyo, Japan, here are some tips to ensure a great experience including when and how to buy sumo wrestling tickets, where to sit, what to expect and tips for the best experience.
Tips for Watching Sumo Wrestling in Japan
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1) Make sure you visit Japan at the right time.
Professional sumo tournaments are held in Japan six times per year, once in every odd-numbered month. Each tournament starts and ends on a Sunday and lasts 15 days. The sumo tournaments are held as follows: Tokyo (January, May and September), Osaka (March), Nagoya (July) and Fukuoka (November). The Japan Sumo Association official website lists the dates of upcoming tournaments in 2023 and 2024.
If you are not in Japan during a grand sumo tournament, consider attending an open amateur sumo tournament or visiting a sumo stable to watch the wrestlers (rikishi) practice.
2) Buy tickets early, especially for weekend matches.
We purchased our sumo tickets 10 days prior to our weekend in Tokyo and had a difficult time finding tickets. Saturday was completely sold out and although a few single seats were available on Sunday, none were on the first floor. Tickets go on sale approximately one month before the first day of competition, so if you know your schedule there is no reason to wait. Here is the link to the tournament and sale dates in 2023 and 2024.
You may be able to find general admission seats on the morning of the date you wish to attend however, if you have specific seats in mind or if you would like to attend a weekend match, it is best to buy sumo tickets in advance.
3) You can buy tickets online from abroad.
Tickets for the tournament in Tokyo may be purchased online using a credit card from the official website, Ticket Oosumo at sumo.pia.jp/en/. You will receive an email confirmation of your transaction. The email states that your tickets will be available for pick-up at the stadium. The email also states that you must bring the credit card you used to purchase the tickets. Take this seriously. You must scan that credit card in a self-service ticket machine located outside the stadium to receive your tickets. We had a brief moment of panic as we forgot which card we used and had to try a few before the machine finally recognized our reservation.
Some foreigners also use buysumotickets.com to pre-book tickets.
Another great option to watch a sumo tournament is to join a sumo wrestling tour led by a sumo expert who will explain the rules and customs.
Our tickets to the grand sumo tournament in Tokyo
4) There are different types of seats – chair or Japanese-style floor seats.
The sumo stadium in Tokyo, Ryogoku Kokugikan, has both chair seats typically found in an arena and Japanese-style floor box seats. There are also ringside seats that are cushions right in the front of the sumo ring. These are the seats that you will sometimes see sumo wrestlers fall into! Ringside are pretty much impossible for foreigners to purchase.
Both box and chair seats have three tiered sections A, B, and C, with A being the closest to the front. The first floor of the stadium consists mostly of box seats but there are a few chair seats in the back of the first floor and a few ringside seats. The second floor consists only of typical chair arena seating.
Box seats are Japanese style seating in which you sit on a cushion on the floor. The standard box seat is for 4 people and you need to pay per box -not per person. Box seats require you to sit cross-legged if the maximum number of people are sharing one box. There are also some box seats for 1-6 persons as well. Here is a picture we took of the box seats (can also see the green ringside seats):
If you would like to sit in the front of the first floor but not cross legged, you might consider purchasing a box seat and using it for only 1 or 2 people. We cannot sit cross legged for that many hours so that is what we would do if we ever attend another sumo tournament. If you want to sit in a chair, but still be on the first floor, there are a few 4 person boxes with chairs and a table at the very back of the first floor.
By the time we purchased our tickets, only chair seats were available. Our assigned seats were on the second row, section B. We arrived early to the stadium and were able to sit in the first row on the second floor looking over the balcony. The ushers were checking tickets for entry into the first floor but not the second floor. Once inside your assigned floor, you are able to sit anywhere you want until the actual seatholder shows up.
5) Most people show up in the afternoon (around 2:00-3:30 pm).
Although there are sumo matches all day, the majority of people show up in the afternoon (around 2:00-3:30 pm) just in time to watch the top-division sumo wrestlers. Each day of the tournament starts with lower division wrestlers and builds up to the top division as the day goes on.
This is a typical schedule of events that might be helpful in deciding what time to show up:
8:30 AM: The stadium opens.
8:40 AM: The lowest division matches begin. If you arrive at this time (or anytime before 2pm ish), you can watch the lower division rikishi and sit at a prime seat.
2:20 PM: Juryo entrance ceremony. Wrestlers at this rank and above are considered full-fledged professionals.
2:40 PM: Juryo matches begin.
3:45 PM: Makuuchi (top division) ring entering ceremony.
4:15 PM: Makuuchi matches begin.
6:00 PM: Competition ends, Bow-twirling ceremony.
6) If you are unhappy with the seats you purchased, show up early.
As previously mentioned, ushers were checking tickets for the first floor but no one checks to make sure you are sitting in your assigned seat. You can easily move to a better seat until the actual seatholder shows up. At that point, just politely apologize and move. Although not as easy, we were even able to enter the first floor. During a bathroom break, we noticed an usher had temporarily left his post and took the opportunity to try out the box seats. Since we got to the stadium early and managed to sneak into the first floor, we were able to view the matches from many angles. In our opinion, the best seats for a good view and good photos were the box seats on the 1st floor (especially in Section A towards the front) and the chair seats on the inner end of the first row on the 2nd floor chaired section A. In some ways the first row of the second floor was better as there was no one walking in front of you to get to their seats. When we were sitting on the first floor, photos were nearly impossible after 2:30 p.m. with everyone streaming past. As the stadium filled up for the top division wrestlers we made our way back to the second floor and found two random seats together. We got the impression that people usually just sit wherever on the second floor.
7) The stadium, Ryogoku Kokugikan, is easily accessible by public transportation.
The stadium in Tokyo is located next to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, about a five minute walk from the metro station. Eating and drinking is allowed and food is available for purchase at reasonable prices. You may exit and re-enter the stadium once if you would like to take a break or eat at an area restaurant instead.
8) The ceremonies between matches are longer than the actual wrestling.
Each sumo match is preceded by an elaborate ceremonial ritual involving singing, salt-tossing and foot stomping. The ceremonies are longer for the top division wrestlers. We brought some reading material along as we read that it can get pretty repetitive after a while but didn’t find that to be the case for us. Of course, we did move seats a few times so it was interesting just viewing things from a different angle. The actual match usually lasts only a few seconds.
Here are some pictures we took of the sumo wrestlers preparing to fight:
We also took a 3-minute video of a match between lower ranked rikishi from start to finish:
9) Not all professional sumo wrestlers are Japanese.
Not sure if we were most surprised that some wrestlers were trim and toned or by the number of Western sumo wrestlers competing!
If you are ever in Japan during a grand sumo tournament, we recommend you check one out. Has anyone else been to a sumo wrestling tournament and if so did you enjoy it?
Looking for other fun things to do in Tokyo? See our Tokyo bucket list and our 3 days in Tokyo itinerary.
Are you also visiting Kyoto while in Japan? Here is our itinerary for 3 days in Kyoto.
Need more ideas for things to do in Japan? Consider a day trip from Tokyo to Jigokudani to see the snow monkeys and read our Japan Bucket List for more ideas. Also check out our Japan Planning Guide to help you plan your trip to Japan.
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This article was originally posted on May 21, 2014 but has been updated for 2023.
This is so awesome! My husband and I were just talking the other day about how seeing a Sumo match is on our travel bucketlist! These tips are going to come in handy! 🙂 -Alexandra
Thanks! I think you guys would enjoy it.
Cool experience! I have a feeling I would laugh though and then feel awful… it would still be something I would be interested in seeing for myself though! Thanks for the tips! 🙂
Think you would enjoy it. Don’t think it would be a problem at all if you laugh. The stadium is pretty large so no one would probably notice. If you go early enough in the day you can sit pretty far from everyone else!
What a great post! I would love to see a Sumo match in person. It looks like an amazing event – especially with all the ceremonies and everything involved! I will definitely bookmark this as a guide – I plan on going to Japan in the next year or two.
Did you go yet? If so were you able to see a tournament?
I was lucky enough to be there for the Grand Final day last year in Tokyo. I found it to be a very cool experience and super interesting. I loved the information brochures they handed out (in English). They were really informative and help me understand what was going on. You tips are perfect and exactly what we did.
Glad you enjoyed it Jen. The Grand Final day must have been very exciting!
What a great experience. Is there a reason why they only run tournaments during odd numbered months? I think this is something that we would definitely try to experience if we were to visit Tokyo and would definitely make a day of it. Interesting fact that the last Japanese Sumo Champion was in 2006 – just shows how the sport is developing! 🙂
What a cool experience! I read The Street of A Thousand Blossoms a few years ago and have wanted to see sumo wrestling ever since!
These are all great tips. We were lucky that my brother-in-law lives in Japan and secured tickets for us long before we arrived. It’s true most people arrived at 2:00 or after, but if you want to take good photos and move around getting there early is a must. I love the tournament…so much fun!
Hopefully your brother-in-law was able to get you good seats. Did you sit in the arena seats or the Japanese box seats? We agree about getting there early especially if you want to take photos or sit in a better seat. We found it harder to take photos and videos after 2pm as people kept walking in front of us to get to their seats.
Great tips! I’d love to see one just to experience it. I don’t know if I could sit through 10 hours of sumo though but I’m sure it’s really exciting to watch!
Ten hours is definitely a long time to watch sumo! Although the matches last all day, you are allowed to enter the stadium any time so you can watch sumo for however long you choose.
Seeing a sumo match is definitely on my Japan bucket list. These are fantastic tips, thanks for sharing!
Wow, that seems to be a really awesome! I always wanted to see a sumo match live. It must be a really cool cultural experience!
Fascinating post! Would love to immerse myself in the world of Sumo culture for a few days. I saw a documentary about international sumo wrestlers but didn’t know that the last Japanese champion was 2006.
How do you find out where the training is happening and how to book in to that? We are in Tokyo Saturday 6 September 2014 (before the grand tournament starts on 14 Sept), and would like to attend an open amateur sumo tournament or visit a sumo stable to watch the wrestlers (rikishi) practice. How did you guys find out where and when to go to the ‘non-touristy’ part of Tokyo (even though practice was cancelled when you got there)?
We asked one of the staff at the tourist information center and he called around to various sumo stables. He also gave us map of the local area and marked the route from the nearest metro station to the sumo stable. So we just followed the map but it was still not super easy to find. I think if we were to ever visit Tokyo again we would probably research it online to find a couple of options.
Just discovered I’m going to miss the March tournaments by a day 🙁
Have you more information on the ‘sumo stables’ you spoke about?
Is there a formal visiting policy?
Sorry you will miss the tournaments:( Attending practices is not as straightforward as buying tickets for a tournament. There are a few sumo stables that allow foreigners to watch the practices but you have to arrange it ahead of time by calling the stables but I would assume they probably don’t speak English. We also read that stables sometimes require foreigners to be accompanied by someone Japanese.
We think these are your best options:
1) Book one of the tours that take you to the sumo stables (but you will be charged for this)
2) Have the tourist information center call and arrange for you to visit the stable.
3) Use one of the Tokyo free tour guides services and ask them to arrange a visit.
Let us know if you are able to arrange for a visit.
It really is a great experience we would recommend to anyone visiting Tokyo.
Hi travel sisters
Im arriving to japan in time to see the sumo tournament but I haven’t been able to buy a ticket from the official website. It has declined two of my credit cards (visa). Do you know if this website only accepts japanese credit cards? How did you purchase your tickets? Thanks for all the tips!
We were able to book tickets from the official website using a U.S. credit card. I wonder if your bank has a fraud alert and that is why the cards are declined. I would call your bank first just to check. Hope it all works out!
I have just had the same issues. Try booking one box at a time (I was trying multiple and when I finally tried 1 box it worked). Then simply do the same thing over if you are after multiple boxes. Adam Barber (Brisbane Australia)
Interesting thanks for the comment. We has no issues but we booked seats rather boxes.
Super excited!! We will be attending the tournament tomorrow on our last day in Japan. Should be a lot of fun. Great write-up!!
Thanks! Have fun at the tournament.
I’ve always wanted to go see a Sumo match. My husband is really into the MMA flights (Mix Martial Arts). I’m sure he would enjoy it as well. I’ll have to make time when we go to Japan. Thanks for sharing.
Hello Travel Sisters! Just wanted to drop you a comment and let you know I enjoyed your article! I’ve just arrived in Tokyo and am blogging with a local company for a month. I stopped by the Sumo Museum only to learn next month’s tournament is in Osaka and not Tokyo! Oh well, guess I will have to come back, anyways you did a great job with this article, I really enjoyed reading it! Happy Travels!
Happy that you enjoyed our article. Hopefully you will be able to catch a sumo match sometime as it is a fun experience.
We love Tokyo so looking forward to your future posts!
This is one of the best things I did last time I was in Japan. I loved it. Your tips are spot on!
Thanks Corinne! It’s definitely one of our favorite experiences too!
Has anyone taken children to a tournament? I have boys aged 8 and 10 who are desperate to see Sumo when we head to Japan later this year…Obviously we would not last the whole 10 hours!!
We saw children in that age group (and younger) when we attended. They seemed pretty into it but of not sure how long they were there for.
You said you moved around a bit and it seems you liked the chair option better than the floor option. Do you have a favorite location for a chair? It seems the second floor right in front would be a good spot? I would love to hear your feedback, thank you!
Yes, right in the front of the second floor would be a great spot as you can take pictures over the balcony without people walking in front of your shot. That being said if those seats are not available when you purchase your tickets you can just arrive early and sit wherever you want in the second floor until the seatholder shows up.
We are on Honeymoon in Japan fon 20/08/15 to 2/09/15 and we’d like watch a sumo tournamant. Do u know if they are other sumo maths at that time?
Unfortunately, I don’t think there is one at the time but perhaps you might be able to arrange a visit with a sumo stable. Congrats on the wedding and have a great honeymoon!
Ahh this is so cool! Great tips for anyone wanting to do it! I think i would’ve forgotten about Sumo when planning a visit – but now i definitely wont!
Hi is there any sumo games during March 19th until 24th in Tokyo ?
Or in Osaka from the 2nd until the 7th of April?
Any level of sumo.
Thanks in advance
The tournament schedule is here: http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnTicket/year_schedule
Looks like only a tournament in Osaka in March. Would suggest seeing if any sumo stables in Tokyo are available for visits.
I would like to thank you for the informations you provided in your article; last week my wife and I were in Fukuoka during the Honbasho and we found two tickets! The show was great 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it!
Hi Travel Sisters! Your site is so helpful. My family (2 adults & 2 teens aged 13 & 15) will be in Tokyo for the final day of the January tournament. I’m thinking we should get Family / Senior Box Chair A seats on the 2nd floor. I think sales for this tournament open this coming Sunday night. Am I on the right track with my thinking re seat selection? My knees can’t handle kneeling or sitting cross legged ; P
If sitting cross legged is an issue I would go for chair or arena seats in section A.
Am thinking of this box for my family (2 adults, 2 kids) – how did you find it? Did they have chairs or just mats?
It’s such a useful, practical post – thank you so much for the info!
Such a handy post! Thank you for sharing! I was wondering if you had any barriers while booking with the language. I wanna get my tickets for the tournament in May, but when I check the website it says I can get my tickets through Internet (PC, mobile phone) via
Ticket Oosumo (In Japanese) / Ticket Pia (in Japanese). Does that mean I can only get my tickets from Japanese websites? What is your experience with this?
Thank you in advance! 🙂
OMG what a wealth of information. Thank you so much for this post on the Sumo’s. I was starting to think it was all too hard to work out, but now I feel so much more confident. Thank you once again.
Thank you so much!
Thanks for the info. I am planning on buying tickets for Tokyo sumo in May. I checked the official site and saw that they go on sale in April. Do you know if I can order online in English? I was confused because the 2 internet sites say in Japanese. Do the box seats sell quickly? Thank you,
Hoping that our experience may help you and others. Just moved on from Japan, having gone primarily to see the Sumo in Osaka again, having seen it 7 yrs ago, and wanted to go again, as the experience was a great one. Booked the flights 6 mths ago, but tickets only go on sale 1 mnth before the tournament start date, so thought this would be OK, as had no problems buying the tickets last time online, and picking them up from our hotel when we arrived. This time, however, when I checked to buy tickets, they were all sold out. Sumo has its first Yokozuno (top rank) for some 19yrs, and so is very popular at present. General admission tickets are available, always, on the day, so we thought all would be OK. We didn’t bank on the queue forming at 4.30am however, and the tickets are limited, so we missed our chance, as we only had one day available. Caught it all online/tv, but not qite the same. In NZ now, as it was a stopover, but be aware, and enjoy the spectacle if possible.
By the way, buying on the official website is ok, had we been able to do so, would have generated a voucher for redemption at the stadium, for our tickets. There is also an English version.
Tickets go on sale 1 mnth before the start date, but beware, as Japan has its 1st Yokozuno (top rank) wrestler in 19yrs?, and so it is very popular at present, and tickets were sold within 2hours/days?, which is what caught me out.
Our first experience was of the cheap seats at the back, which were good enough, and gave us a full 10hr experience, so it was well worth it. The general admission tickets available on the day, are for these seats only, but are priced at 2100yen, so only £15?
The early bird, therefore, gets the worm. Book on the hour that the tickets become available, or queue at 4.30am. The choice is yours!
Thank you for letting me know. I heard that tickets were selling out because of the popularity of the first Yokozuno. I went ahead and preordered through a ticket seller in Toyko but will not be surprised if they are sold out. I will keep my fingers crossed.
Hoping to go to Japan soon…watching sumo wrestling is a must.
Hi! Great article. My husband and I are going to be in Japan during the July Grand Tournament held in Nagoya. Unfortunately all of the tickets that can be reserved are sold out (unless we want to pay WAY too much money through a third party site, which we don’t). SO… we’re thinking of arriving in Nagoya the night before and getting in line super early for the arena tickets when the box office opens for their sales day of the tournament (July 23). Two questions: (1) Do you think it’s worth going to the tournament with only arena tickets (i.e. did you get a sense that you could see very well from the arena seating?), and (2) do you have any idea if arena ticket holders would be able to sort of sneak into the first or second level seats when they are unoccupied (as you guys did with the first level seats), or do you think this would be impossible with the ticket checks or possibly different access areas for the arena tickets. Any information you could provide would be very helpful, thanks so much!
Just got back from a trip to Japan. We were able to get box seats for Tokyo sumo matches. It was very crowded because of the first Japanese Yokozuna champion in 19 years. I will pass along that they have people at each door checking tickets when you enter and reenter the venue, so you need to keep your ticket stub when you go to the restroom. I don’t know about the view from top. I hope you get tickets because it was great. I learned a lot about sumo. Have a great trip to Japan!
Thanks for the info, Joann! Keeping our fingers crossed!
We were in Osaka in March, hoping to see the tournament, although I knew that we didn’t have tickets, but we were hoping to get in line for the General Admission tickets on the Friday, day 13. We got down there at 7.00 am, thinking this would be early enough, but no such luck, as the front of the queue formed at 4.30am! There were tickets for about half of the queue, which stretched all around the block, so my advice would be to get there early to avoid dissapointment.
Japans January winner, Kisenosato, has sure made it popular. Luckily we saw the Osaka tournament 7yrs ago, with tickets bought prior to our trip, and it was a magnificent experience.
Hope you avoid dissappointment.
Thanks Dave! We’ll plan to get in line super early 🙂
These are great tips! I will actually be in Tokyo in September in less than a month and just saw that tickets are sold out for the time I go. Would you happen to know if there are ways I can purchase tickets last minute? I did look up the Voyagin website you showed, though tickets appear to be more expensive than what I had initially thought.
General admission tickets are sold each day of the tournament on a first-come first-serve basis. My husband and I got these for the most recent tournament in Nagoya. While the ticket office doesn’t open until 7:30-7:45am, you need to get in line by 4:00-4:30am to get tickets – at least this was our experience in Nagoya. There are a limited number of general admission tickets and once they are out, that’s it. Also, only people in line get the tickets, so you can’t pick up tickets for others who aren’t there. Luckily, the Japanese are very organized about their lines, so you don’t have to worry about any mad rush once the window opens, you just need to worry about being in the line early enough! We got in line around 4:30am for the last day of the tournament (probably the most popular day) and were numbers 107 and 108. My guess is that probably about 200 people got the tickets. Again, that was Nagoya, not sure if the Tokyo stadium is bigger. The general admission tickets cost about ~$25 USD. Hope this helps!
Thank you so much for your reply! That was very informative and helpful – I’ll make sure to line up then and ensure that my whole party is there.
As our earlier in the year post, general admission tickets are available on the day, for about £15 each, but these are limited to a certain number, first come first served, for seats at the furthest tiers, but still very much worth it from our experience in Osaka 2010. As reported earlier, we were hoping to do this year, when we visited in March, but thought that joining the queue at 7.00am would be earlier enough, but it started forming at 4.30am! so we missed it unfortunately(first japanese tourney winner in January and March for some 18yrs, so very popular at present!)
Well worth the early start tho, in our experience, as we had a full 10 hour day first time around, and wiil return in future for another look.
Awesome article! Do you know what is the structure of the tournament over the 15 day span? In other words, does it matter if I go on the first day or the last day of the tournament? Do the top ranked wrestlers compete every day, or will I see better wrestlers if I go towards the end of the tournament?
I will try to buy tickets online from Oosumo on the date the tickets become available and I see that I need to use the same credit card when I arrive at the self service Will Call machine. Does this machine offer instructions in English? Thank you!
From what I recall the machine had instructions in English.
Thanks for your reply!
I would like to watch almost naked women wrestle and talk about it at work meeting without being accused of sexual harassment.
Literally female professional wrestlers in America exist my dude, and something tells me you do just fine with getting accused of sexual harassment without talking about women wrestlers.
Thank you for posting this. I would love to attend a tournament as part of a trip to Japan and you answered all of my questions.