Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo

The Aki Basho, or Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament, is here again and watching the wrestlers in action as they grapple, collide and throw each other around in a ring seems to be the quintessential cultural experience for anyone visiting or living in Japan.

The sport (wait a minute… according to the experts, we should call it a ‘way’ rather than a sport, and certainly not the “national sport” of Japan – that semi-myth might come from the fact that the arena in which it is held is the Kokugikankokugi basically does mean national sport…) is something that we all think we know a little about.

The rules, for example, are simple: the wrestler who first touches the ground with anything besides the soles of his feet, or who leaves the ring before his opponent, loses the match. Sumo wrestlers of higher ranks compete the reach the status of yokozuna, or Grand Champion, and the current one-to-watch is top man, Mongolian wrestler, Hakuho.

Bouts between wrestlers usually only last a few seconds, perhaps a full minute in rare cases – a fraction of the time it takes for ceremonial goings on, salt throwing and, if you aren’t careful, waiting for a ticket.

The Grand Tournament runs from Sept. 9 until Sept. 23, as usual starting and ending on a Sunday. If you want to go along, it is advisable to plan a weekday visit if your schedule allows, certainly if you are hoping for one of the cheaper daily sale tickets (¥2,100).

Line up at the ticket office for these but remember, if doing so at the weekend you will need to get there well before the action begins – arrive at 9 a.m. and you may already be too late. At the time of writing, final weekend tickets have all but sold out but you can check availability on this site, in English.

A sumo wrestler’s diet consists mainly of chankonabe, a high-protein one-pot stew containing various meats and vegetables (accompanied with massive quantities of rice) and if you want to get in on the action there are many places around the venue that will serve a similar dish to the public. More of a dish for a winter’s day, really, but hey, why not get into the sumo spirit.

For more advance sale ticket information, click here.

When: Sept. 9-Sept. 23

Where: Ryogoku Kokogikan (nearest station, Ryugoku)

How much: From ¥2,100 (just ¥200 for children) for day tickets purchased on the morning of the event.

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