Photo Credit:Better Than Bacon@flickr
There are a few iconic things about Japan: cherry blossoms, manga, anime, the Pineapple Pen song and of course martial arts; which are among some of the most memorable items that come up in conversations when talking about Japan. If we were to focus on martial arts, then art of sumo comes to mind right away.
An Ancient Practice
There are traces of sumo practice back in the Edo period of Japan but it’s not until 1684 that recorded evidence can be found about professional sumo wrestlers. It was used as a ritual of significant importance in the imperial court as well as with local lords. In a sense, the sumo wrestlers were both giving a dance ritual as well as a spiritual fight against a divine spirit. Sumo is now practiced throughout Japan and in some countries around the world under the supervision of the Japan Sumo Association.
Modern Sumo Practice and Tournaments
Sumo wrestlers are part of a very private club. Only retired wrestlers can become coaches and all the members of the association are or were wrestlers. For anyone wanting to become a sumo wrestler, you have to join a training stable, of which there are only 43 in Japan, hosting a total of 660 wrestlers. There are many friendly and competitive sparring matches in Japan and throughout the world but the only way to define a wrestler’s rank is through the official tournaments which happen six times per year. Three of them are held in Tokyo, one in Nagoya, one in Osaka and lastly, one in Fukuoka.
2017 Tournament Schedule
If you plan to visit Japan, attending one of the six large Sumo tournaments should be on your list. It is a fantastic cultural experience and the atmosphere is just electrifying. People come with flags and are very exuberant in supporting their champion and if you know anything about Japan. Every year there are six large scale tournaments held by the Japan Sumo Association around the country.
You’ll need to buy sumo tickets in advanced as the seats fill up quite quickly. Make sure you check the official Japan Sumo Association website if you are looking for specific box office locations. Box tickets start at around 25,000 yen as a 4-pack, putting you on the ground floor of the sumo match. If you’d like spmething more economical, The Chair seats are a great option at around 3,800 yen and there are even cheaper options for kids. Below are a few of the ticket options available, make sure you check the official site for a more comprehensive listing.
|Box Seat A||4 People||11,700 yen per|
|Box Seat B||4 People||10,600 yen per|
|Box Seat C||4 People||9,500 yen per|
|Chair A||1 Person||6,900 yen per|
|Chair B||1 Person||5,600 yen per|
|Chair C||1 Person||3,800 yen per|
|March||Osaka||EDION Arena Osaka|
|July||Aichi||Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium|
|November||Fukuoka||Fukuoka Kokusai Center|
Where to see Sumo practice
There are also ways to watch Sumo wrestlers practicing at their stables. You can research stables to find one close to where you are staying. You can call them and ask if it is possible to visit and witness them practice as some may agree and some may not. The thing to keep in mind is that stables are ruled by very strong etiquette standards and you will be expected to follow this rule to the letter. Those rules include things such as no noise during practice, no children under 12 in the stable, no talking to wrestlers and so on.
It all can be very intimidating but luckily there have been new companies offering stable tours and by following their guidance, you can visit a stable and discover the very private world of Sumo. A quick search of ‘Sumo Training Tours’ online will give you plenty of companies to choose from.