Ryogoku Kokugikan (sumo stadium)
Get a close-up view as professional sumo wrestlers grapple with each other in earnest
Ryogoku Kokugikan is a venue for contests in Japan's national sport, sumo. Three of the six official sumo tournaments that take place nationwide each year are held here, in January, May, and September. The hall can hold a total of 11,098 people. The ring, or dohyo, is located in the middle of the hall, with the spectators' seats arranged all around. As well as chair seats, there are ringside seats called "suna-aburi-seki", which are so close to the dohyo that spectators get sprayed with the sand from it during the bouts, and "masu-seki," which are four-person boxes with wooden boards to sit on. The ringside seats are close to the action, so eating and drinking is forbidden, but you may eat and drink freely in the boxes. Cheering on your favorite wrestler while eating a bento lunchbox or yakitori chicken skewers is one of the true pleasures of watching a sumo tournament. Tickets for the ringside seats and boxes are more expensive than those for the ordinary chair seats, but they are so popular that it is hard to obtain them.
In official sumo tournaments, the bouts (torikumi) start at around nine in the morning, and by the evening, when the final bout, or musubi-no-ichiban, takes place, the whole hall has been transformed into a crucible of excitement. When official sumo tournaments are not taking place, the hall is rented out for various purposes, and it has hosted many excellent bouts in combat sports such as professional wrestling and boxing. The complex is also home to the Sumo Museum, which has free entry and where visitors can view various artifacts associated with sumo, such as color prints, lists of wrestler rankings, and ornamental aprons worn by the wrestlers; it also hosts various themed exhibitions.
The Ryogoku district, where the hall is located, is truly the home of sumo, and there are many chanko-nabe hotpot restaurants serving the same dishes that the wrestlers eat. It is also often possible to see young wrestlers strolling through the area wearing yukata (cotton kimono), and they will usually respond with a smile if you greet them.
Address: 1-3-28 Yokoduna, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Phone: 03-3623-5111 (Nihon Sumo Kyokai, the Sumo Wrestling Association)
Directions: (Train) 2 minutes on foot from Ryogoku Station on the JR Sobu Line, or 5 minutes on foot from Ryogoku Station on the Tokyo Toei Oedo Line.