The first of this year’s six annual sumo tournaments pushed off on Sunday, January 10th at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo and will run until January 24th. The majority of advanced tickets have now been sold but there will be 350 unreserved seats sold every day and the good news is they’re much cheaper than the advance tickets at just 2,200 yen per person.
The unreserved tickets go on sale every day at 8 am so it’s best to head down early to avoid disappointment. On the weekends, tickets will sell out fast so in all likelihood you will have to be there well before 8 am to secure yourself a ticket. However, during the week, it is much quieter and on the day I attended, the 350 tickets didn’t sell out until 11 am. Although, that was only the third day and there were still some advanced tickets left so don’t bank on arriving at 10:30 am and getting a ticket. On a weekday, arriving around 9 am should get you a ticket.
The fights start at 9:30 am when the juniors take to the ring but the stadium will be virtually empty until 1 or 2 pm. After you have your ticket, you’re free to go away and enjoy some of Tokyo’s sights. The Edo-Tokyo museum is next door to the sumo stadium while Asakusa and Ginza are nearby. A good time to return to the stadium is around 2 pm as the juryo wrestlers (the second top division) enter at 2:15 pm and the makuuchi (top division) appear at 3:40.
Television coverage starts at 3 pm and it’s around this time that the arena starts to get busier, there are around 20 top division bouts with the action ending at 6 pm. You are free to re-enter once with your ticket so you can go for a look around in the morning and then come back in the afternoon. Toilets, refreshment areas and smoking areas are located inside the stadium so you can use those as many times as you like. The bento boxes and beers are a bit pricey as you may expect but surprisingly, you can bring your own food and drinks inside so it’s best to head to a nearby convenience store and stock up.
The unreserved seats officially give you a seat in the back row of the second tier but with many empty seats around – at least until around 3 or 4 pm – then you can occupy someone else’s seat until they turn up. It isn’t uncommon for fans to seek out a better view and you won’t be asked to leave by stewards until the ticket holder appears. At this point, you can simply move to the next empty seat with a decent view. Although the tickets may be sold out there will undoubtedly be some busy businessmen that aren’t able to attend so you may find that you’re able to stay in a prime location throughout the action. On the day I went, I sat in the second row of the second tier from about 2-4 pm before the ticket holders turned up and then I moved to the fourth row for the remainder of the day.
Upon entry, you will be given an arena map as well as a schedule of the juryo and makuuchi bouts and the wrestlers’ rankings. All that’s left then is to enjoy the bizarre yet engrossing spectacle that is sumo.
For more information about tickets see this site (in English).