Sumo is a Japanese style of wrestling that originated in ancient times as entertainment for
Two men who are wearing nothing but a mawashi (loincloth) face each other in a dohyo (circular ring) to push, grapple, and throw each other. The rules are simple. The first person to exit the ring or touch the ground other than the soles of their feet loses. A match usually lasts only seconds, but can last to a minute in rare cases. There are no weight restrictions, so it is common for one wrestler to match against someone greater in size. For this reason, weight gain is essential in sumo training.
Sumo began many centuries ago, but its present form was developed during the Edo Period (1603 - 1968). Rikishi (wrestlers) wear their hair in a topknot, which was a normal hairstyle at that time. Meanwhile, the referee wears the same clothes as a samurai of 600 years ago.
Many aspects of Japan’s traditional culture can be seen in a sumo match. For instance, the symbolic purification of the ring with salt, as the dohyo is considered a sacred place. With sumo’s long history, it has been referred as Japan’s national sport. Many professional sports are played in Japan, however, sumo is the nation’s oldest professional sport.
The Japan Sumo Association is known as the governing body of professional sumo. There are six tournaments held every year. There are three in Tokyo (January, May, and September) and one each in Osaka (March), Nagoya (July), and Fukuoka (November). Each tournament lasts for 15 days where wrestlers perform one match per day, except those of lower rank.
Sumo wrestlers are classified in a banzuke (ranking hierarchy), which is updated after each tournament based on their performance. At the top of the hierarchy stands the yokozuna (grand champion).
The best way to fully grasp and be entertained by sumo is to attend a sumo tournament. Tickets are sold for each day of the 15 day tournaments.
There are three types of seats available to the regular visitor.
These are the closest to the ring and are also the most expensive and difficult to to get. People seated here sit on cushions on the floor and are exposed to the risk of wrestlers flying into the spectators.
Japanese style box seats, which generally seat four people, are on the rest of the stadium’s first floor. Shoes are removed and viewers sit on cushions. Tickets are for entire box seats regardless if they are fully occupied. To clarify, two people occupying a four people box would have to buy all four tickets. Furthermore, the box seats are classified into A, B, or C according to their distance from the ring.
There are several rows of western-style seats on the the second floor balcony. These are also classified into A, B, or C depending on their distance from the ring. Additionally, there is a section held exclusively for same-day balcony tickets, the cheapest tickets that can be purchased the day of at the stadium.
The stadium often sells out during weekends and holidays. There is also only a limited amount of same-day balcony tickets available for purchase. Sumo tickets are sold approximately one month before before the tournament day.