Experience Live Sumo in Japan

Dec 11th, 2008 | By | Category: Events, Osaka, Outdoor Activities & Sporting Events, Tokyo and Vicinity

The first Grand Sumo Tournament of 2009 will be held in in Tokyo from Sunday, January 11th through Sunday, January 25th and advance tickets for this event are now on sale.  If you haven’t seen sumo live and will be in Tokyo during this time frame this is definitely one event that you will want to make sure is on your itinerary.

A day at Sumo begins around 8AM when the newest sumo wrestlers participate in a test competition called maezumo which earns them the right to to be listed on the banzuke, or official rankings, for the next tournament.  Next, the lower ranked wrestlers in the Jonokuchi and Makunuchi divisions compete.

Although tickets are good for the entire day many spectators choose not to arrive until around 2:30PM when the Juryo division performs the dohyo-iri, or formal ring entering ceremony. These wrestlers have earned the right to wear richly embroidered ceremonial silk aprons called kesho-mawashi that are beautiful to behold and can cost anywhere from 400,000 to 500,000 yen ($4,000-$5,000 USD).  The matches in this division are then contested followed by the official opening address at 3:30PM.  Just before 4PM the sumo wrestlers of the Makuuchi division perform their dohyo-iri and compete.

Apart from the actual matches, the highlight of the day and the most visually impressive ceremony is the Yokozuna dohyo-iri.  There are two Yokuzuna, or grand champions, and each man makes his entrance wearing a massive braided hemp rope over his kesho-mawashi that weighs between 25 to 35 pounds that is tied in an elaborate bow at the back and ornamented in the front with strips of paper hanging in a zigzag pattern. The yokuzuna is attended by a senior gyoji (referee) and two other wrestlers, one carrying a ceremonial sword.

Sumo Yokuzuna Ring Entering Ceremony

The concluding rite of the day is the “bow dance” which became part of Sumo custom sometime during the Edo Period when a winning wrestler was awarded a prize of a bow and to express his satisfaction and appreciation performed this dance.

Sumo Bow Ceremony

The banzuke or official rankings for the first tournament of 2009 will be issued on December 24th. Written in Kanji on washi paper, rankings can be purchased for around Y100 (US $1) at the stadium office and make a great souvenir when framed.

If you won’t be in Tokyo to catch the January 2009 tournament you may be able to arrange a trip to coincide with one of the other five Grand Tournaments scheduled throughout the year.

2009 Grand Sumo Tournament Schedule:

March 15-29 at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium – advance tickets go on sale February 8th.

May 10-24 at the Ryogoku Kokugikan – advance tickets go on sale April 11th.

July 12-26 at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasion in Nagoya – advance tickets go on sale May 14th.

September 13-27 at the Ryogoku Kokugikan– advance tickets go on sale August 8th.

November 15-29 at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center – – advance tickets go on sale October 10th.

January 2009 Grand Sumo Tournament Event Details:

Dates: January 11-25, 2009
Ticket Information: Prices range from Y3,600 for a single seat to Y61,800 for a box that holds 6 people. Tickets can be purchased at the venue or by phone.
Venue: Ryogoku Kokugikan – Tokyo, a 2 minute walk from Ryogoku station on the JR Sobu Line
Times:  From 8AM  – 6PM each day

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