If there’s one thing people know about Japan, it’s sumo wrestling. Well, that and geisha, the iconic Mount Fuji, and those bullet trains. Sumo tournaments happen six times a year, and three of those take place in Tokyo. If you’re fortunate enough to be here when there’s a tournament on — in January, May, or September — then it’s well worth checking out. Here’s how to see sumo in Tokyo, for cheap(ish).

Sumo is a timeless sport and perfect for visitors. While there are intricacies and foot-trickery that only experts will spot, there’s more than enough throwing, spinning, and near-misses to keep newcomers interested. Despite its honored position as the national sport, in recent times sumo has suffered from scandals and a dearth of Japanese wrestlers in the top ranks. This really only matters if you’re a hardcore fan, though — watching the frankly enormous players step into that ring and square up is seriously impressive.

Tokyo sumo tournaments

Sometimes even the smallest rikishi wins. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

Official sumo tournaments (called “basho”) are held three times a year in Tokyo — in January, May, and September — at Ryōgoku Kokugikan, the national sumo stadium. Each tournament is held over 15 days, so there’s a total of 45 days of top-class sumo in Tokyo each year.

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Sumo Morning Practice Tour at Stable in Tokyo
Try this insider’s experience at a sumo wrestler morning practice session. Enjoy exclusive access to a sumo stable, watching as these massive athletes put themselves through their daily training regimen and go head-to-head.

Tokyo sumo dates 2024

Tokyo sumo dates 2025

You can buy sumo tickets online in advance (before the official release date) with Viator, KKday, and JTB Sunrise Tours.

Opening, closing, and any weekend days are always the busiest. As you’ll know if you’ve been to Tokyo Cheapo before, it’s best to do things off-peak. This means to see cheap sumo in Tokyo, your best bet is a weekday falling between days 3 to 6 and 10 to 12.

Not in Tokyo? The March tournament is held in Osaka, the July tournament is in Nagoya, and the November tournament is in Fukuoka.

Ryōgoku Kokugikan (the national sumo stadium) is an impressive sight. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

Sumo seating options: box seats vs. arena seats

There are many different types of seating available for sumo in Tokyo, and a range of prices. Until recently, ringside tamari seats weren’t open for the general public to purchase; these were reserved for sumo association sponsors and members. Now (in theory anyway) you can get the chance to have a 180kg sumo wrestler plant his rear-end on your face as he flies from the dohyō — but tamari seats are still quite hard to come by.

The rest of the seats are divided into “box seats” and “arena seats” and are fine for us Cheapos.

Box seats: Good for groups

Box seats, or masu seki, are basically a (small) square of tatami mat into which 2 to 4 people fit. You buy a whole box seat and not individual tickets. Note that these are not spacious: they’d typically fit four small Japanese grannies or one sumo wrestler comfortably. Tatami has more give than wood or concrete, but most people bring their own cushions. The box seats are further divided into A, B, and C — moving progressively further from the action.

Arena seats: Easier to get

The arena seats are on the second floor of the gymnasium and are similarly divided according to proximity to the dohyō. Since box seats sell out fast, you’re more likely to pick up an arena seat.

Get up-close-and-personal with a ringside seat. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

Tokyo sumo tickets: How much do they cost, and where can I buy them?

Masu-seki box seats range in price from a conservative ¥38,000 to ¥47,000 or more (seating up to four people). Expect to pay anywhere from ¥8,500 per person.

The arena seats start from around ¥3,800 for the seats way in the back and go up from there. You’ll probably end up paying closer to ¥8,000.

You can reserve 2nd floor B-class sumo tickets online with Viator, KKday, and JTB Sunrise Tours. JTB also sell A-class seats.

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If you run into any trouble, you can also check the official sumo website for up-to-date information on buying tickets (and snag them there, too).

Pro tip: Whatever sumo ticket you end up buying, it should give you all-day access to the tournament venue. Matches may start around 8:30 a.m., but the biggest, best wrestlers only roll out in the late afternoon — so you can nip out for a bite to eat in between bouts. And, on that note…

Die-hard fans bring signs and shout encouragement to their favorite rikishi. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

What to eat and drink at sumo

Although not completely over the top, you’re a captive audience at the sumo, so food and drinks are sold at a premium. You are not meant to bring any outside food or drink into the venue, so you’ll have to make do with what they have inside: snacks, tempura, bento boxes, beer, and sake.

Other ways to see sumo

Setagaya Hachimangu Autumn Festival Sumo
A sumo display at the Setagaya Hachiman-gū Autumn Festival. | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

Not around during a tournament? Never fear — you can still get your sumo fix.

Morning sumo training

One option is to book a morning training viewing experience on Viator or Klook. You can also watch a training session for free through a window at Arashio-beya, but times and days are limited.

Sumo restaurants in Tokyo

Another fun way to see sumo wrestlers up close is by booking a meal at a sumo restaurant in Tokyo. Especially popular with families, these venues give you a hearty serving of chanko nabe — the favorite food of sumo wrestlers — and a sumo showdown to watch as you eat it. You’ll have the chance to go up against the giants yourself, afterwards.

There are a few different sumo restaurants in Tokyo, including:

Tickets generally cost between ¥13,000 and ¥60,000, depending on the seating.

Two retired sumo wresters square off at an Asakusa sumo restaurant
Tokyo Asakusa Sumo Club — a popular sumo restaurant in Tokyo. | Photo by Carey Finn

The sumo wrestlers at these restaurants are all real, but retired. While some might have aged out of the sport, others have been forced to stop competing early, due to e.g. knee injuries. Don’t underestimate them, though — once a sumo, always a sumo!

Festivals

If you happen to be in Tokyo during autumn, you might be able to watch student sumo wrestlers perfecting their technique. Each year at the Setagaya Autumn Festival, a ritual sumo session takes place in an outdoor dohyō in front of the shrine. With a more playful element to their matches, the students are brilliant to watch, with tag-team challenges and impressive strength.

If you just want to see sumo and not the fights, then also check out the Nakizumo Crying Baby Festival.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This post was originally published in December, 2014. Last update: February 2024.

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