In 2015 and 2017 I attended the Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka and Tokyo respectively. Sumo wrestling is one of the most popular sports in Japan and the tickets go very fast. For 2015 we had to buy tickets 3 months in advance and for 2017 it was sold out except for a package tour that included a sake tasting and garden tour(which was totally worth it). We bought the tickets here and here for each experience and you can buy them well in advance which I suggest.
For a rough overview, the Grand Sumo tournament runs all day but only gets really crowded towards the 2nd half of the day as that is when the more predominant wrestlers compete. The earlier half of the morning is generally the lower ranked, less well know competitors however if you are not a big follower of the sport it is just as entertaining and it gives the opportunity to sit very close for a few rounds.
The basics of sumo wrestling is two opponents stand across from each other and perform a prefight ritual(the raised legs, powder throwing, etc) which is meant to intimidate the opponent. Once they are across from each other, once both opponents put all four of their fists to the arena the fight begins. There is a mental advantage to putting your fists down first to not seem worried and a tactical one to being second and deciding when match begins.
For the high profile matches a train of flags is walked through the arena to indicate sponsors and how much the prize purse is. We were told wrestles could get up to roughly 3-4 million USD in the right matches.
Outside the arena there’s a lot going on as well. You can watch the wrestlers walk in which is basically the same as any other sports arena anywhere with the crazy excited fans all over.
There’s little food stands as well and those cardboard cutouts to take pictures with.
The best part is inside the arena they serve little single serving sake drinks and it is so much cheaper than any sports arena I’ve been to in the USA.
We spent the days drinking and watching every match and we loved them all. The matches that went on more than a minute got the crowd hyped up and always got applause at the end for the show.
The 2015 tournament finale was my favorite. It was an undefeated Mongolian vs a 10-2 Japanese wrestler and the underdog won out. The stadium went crazy, chairs were flying, drinks were thrown, I loved it. I’ll upload that video to the youtube channel when I find it. Here’s a few more shots from the 2017 tournament.
I’ll likely be returning for a tournament in 2019 and expect to get some cool videos of it. Follow on our Instagram for more pics and videos of this.