Sumo in Osaka

We got the tickets!

When we decided to come to Japan for the cherry blossom season Dan had the idea to look into tickets for sumo wrestling. We discovered that a match was being held in Osaka and quickly looked into tickets.

The ticketing process is quite involved. We ended up pre-ordering ours from a website called to have a chance at getting them. First you choose the date you’d like to go, then pay them for the seats in a section you choose. When the tickets come up for sale they do the best they can to get what you requested. In our case they weren’t able to get the section we requested, they got the next level and refunded the difference for us. The tickets were then mailed to the hotel we told them we would be at. There was a minor issue where the hotel refused delivery, but the post office was close so we were able to go pick them up the day before the match.

The day of the match is quite long, going from just before 9 am until around 6 pm. The lesser ranked wrestlers, or rikishi, going in the earlier bouts. Most people don’t arrive until the bouts at 2:40 which are the intermediate rikishi. We arrived at about 11 to get a comparison between the skill levels. We practically had the arena to ourselves!

See the empty seats?

The higher the rank, the more ceremony involved in each bout. They acknowledge each other, the judges, they throw salt on the floor for good luck and stomp their feet emphatically to drive evil spirits away. They have the lower placed rikishi assisting them and an enthusiastic crowd. Bouts last for barely a second if one rikishi sidesteps a charge from his opponent. Most bouts are under 15 seconds. The competitors frequently step off, fall off or are thrown off the platform, sometimes landing unceremoniously on a judge or fellow competitor awaiting their bout. In this video, the real hero is the assistant!

Look out!

Seating in the arena is interesting, with possibly a majority being in boxes seating up to four on the floor. Luckily they also have western style seating for us older, larger and arthritic folks.

Once the senior level began these guys started parading around the ring. We finally figured out that this was advertising! Compare to ads everywhere during a NHL game!

The level of play was more intense and the crowd had their favorites. People of all ages were waving towels with their favorite’s name or image on it and calling their names out. Roars of approval went up for various moves, or for lack of movement when the rikishi were locked in a death grip, muscles bulging. They also roared approval even when their competitor lost, just for the sportsmanship they displayed.

I’m going to add some pictures and videos here that were some of the highlights for us.

They fake each other out, for up to four minutes, before the wrestling begins

Sometimes the smaller guy wins

4 Comments on “Sumo in Osaka

  1. Thank you for sharing! I love hearing about your insights and adventures!

  2. What an interesting, strange (to westerners), ceremonial sport! Generally think of the Japanese as being more on the petite side, so I wonder what the training regimen is for the Sumo. Thanks for sharing both the text and photos / videos!

    • It involves about 7,000 calories a day to start! A lot of Japanese are quite slender, but their is also a native group with the same islander characteristics as Māori or Samoan or Hawaiian. I don’t know if that’s the background for Sumo though.

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