What do you mean you are not interested in going to watch a sumo tournament? What’s not to love about watching near-naked men dressed in loincloths wrestling each other? Oh okay I admit it’s not quite a Tarzan look they have going on, and I may have skipped the overweight part, but still. And aren’t man-buns all the rage at the moment? It’s also the lights, the action, and the atmosphere. This is theatre-in-the-round at its finest. It’s sumo season baby, so get your mawashi on and reserve your seats now.
Tournaments are held in Tokyo in January, May and September. If you are lucky enough to be in Tokyo during tournament time, be sure to buy your tickets early. And I mean ridiculously early like hot cross buns going on sale on Boxing Day early. Saturdays sell out faster than any other day, and Sundays are not much better. If you know your itinerary there is no reason to wait. Click on this link for tournament dates and details for 2016 and 2017.
There are a few different types of seats that you can buy, however unless you know someone the ringside seats are near impossible to get your hands on. Which is maybe not such a bad thing as you need to be prepared to be hit with flying sand, and at times a flying wrestler. Ouch.
Other than the ringside seats, the first floor of the stadium consists mainly of box seats in sections A B and C. Section A is the closest to the front. The box seats are Japanese style seats with cushions on the floor. You need to take your shoes off and sit cross legged. Not a lot of room in these, but they are close to the action, and a whole heap of fun. Especially if, like us, you strike it lucky and find that those in the box next to you are the heads of some huge multinational conglomerate and consider it their duty to ply you with drinks and food all night. The Japanese are well known for their hospitality and this night was no exception. For every drink we would buy them, they would buy us three. For which my husband is eternally grateful, as being 6’2” with a cracked knee and a broken rib (skiing, but that's a whole other story), sitting cross legged on the floor was not something he was especially looking forward to. Their more than generous hospitality helped ease the pain, and before long he was cheering and cushion throwing like a local.
The second floor of the stadium consists of the usual normal chair seating. These are of course cheaper seats as you are further away from the action, and I cannot state with any certainty if there is as much cushion throwing up there.
I can however vouch for the website www.buysumotickets.com as we bought our tickets from here without any fuss or bother and they were safely delivered to our hotel. Thankyou sumo tickets.
Bouts, although short, are intense. They are a few seconds of bodies grappling, locking, twisting and dropping. In fact, the ceremonies between the matches can last longer. These rituals can involve salt-tossing, foot stomping, stretching and singing.
Although the stadium opens at 8am, those in the know do not get there until at least 2pm. Wrestlers competing from this time are considered full professionals. From approximately 3.30pm is the Makuuchi ring entering ceremony. This is when the top level wrestlers appear, when the rikishi parade into the arena wearing their ceremonial aprons. During the earlier contests there are less people, the stadium is quieter, and the competition and atmosphere are not nearly as much fun. Usually by 6pm it is all over.
Then the next adventure begins. Getting your whiskey-sodden husband home when all he wants to do is stop and tell the world how wonderful sumo is.