Had your heart set on seeing sumo, but you arrived in Tokyo between tournaments, or all the cheap sumo tickets were sold out? You may still be able to get a dohyo-side seat for absolutely nothing. Free sumo in Tokyo, you say?
How? By attending the free sumo wrestling practice (asa-keiko) at Arashio-beya in Hamacho.
Viewed through the stable’s large windows while standing in a quiet backstreet, the practice does lack the salt-tossing ceremony and silken pageantry of an actual sumo tournament. Nonetheless, pressing your nose against the glass rewards you with an authentic glimpse of the daily lives of aspiring sumo wrestlers. The mixture of exertion, expression, muscle, sweat and sand is intimate enough to feed your inner voyeur. If you are really lucky, you won’t have to share the experience with too many other tourists on the morning you attend.
Arashio-beya practices sumo between 7:30am and 10am on most mornings except in March, July and November. The wrestlers also take a week off after each of the grand sumo tournaments. If you are not immune to disappointment, it is best to call the stable between 4-8pm the day before you wish to attend to make sure the practice is actually taking place—and to ask for exact starting and ending times. For non-Japanese speakers, the stable’s website has a dialogue in romaji to help you through the conversation.
Arashio-beya doesn’t require reservations to watch through the windows, but the courtesies expected in return for the privilege are outlined on the website. For example, no flash photography is allowed.
The sumo stable is closest to Exit A2 of Hamacho Station on the Toei-Shinjuku line, and just a stone’s throw from the lovely Sumida riverside Hamacho Park.
It is also a mere 10-minute walk from Exit A1 of Ningyocho Station on the Hibiya Line, so watching a sumo practice would be an easy follow-up to an early morning at Tsukiji Fish Market.
Guided tours inside sumo stables
To get a closer look, there are tour operators that can take you inside a sumo stable to watch the training close up. Here’s one tour with access inside—the venue varies depending on season so contact them for more details.
This article was originally published in September 2014. Last update September 2017.
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