Sumo wrestling Tokyo


fig1 Sumo Stadium 1st floor seating plan

Sumo wrestling takes place in the Ryogoku Kokugikan, a three level indoor Sumo stadium capable of holding 13,000 spectators. It is located next to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, a two minute walk from the Ryōgoku train station on the JR Sobu line.The seating plan and prices are published at /eng/ticket/honbasho_joho/tokyo.html.
A more detailed 1st floor seating plan of the Sumo Stadium is shown in Fig 1.

The Sumo Stadium


fig2 ground view Dohyo

Although the stadium holds a large number of spectators, it is quite compact, providing an excellent-to-very good view of the wresting from all positions on the 1st floor, and very good-to- good view from the 2nd floor chaired section A. The view from the last row section C on the  1st floor is shown in fig 2,and the view from the 1st row chaired section B on the 2nd floor  is shown in fig3.

Sumo-wrestling-2nd floor-Dohyo-Ryogoku-Kokugikan

fig3 chair B view of Dohyo Sumo stadium,

The 1st floor seating consists of reserved small boxes ( bring an extra  cushion ) that seat 2-4 persons arranged in three tiered sections A, B, and C, with A being the closest  There are also 7 rows of  individual ringside seats that surround the raised 3.5 m diameter competition ring, the Dohyo (see fig 3). All the boxes and ringside seats require the audience to squat on the floor.


fig4 reserved box seat C Sumo stadium

At the back of the arena on the 1st floor ( last row  section C)  are a number of chaired 4 person boxes (fig 4). These are spacious with a table and have a good view of the Dohyo (see fig 2).


Photographing Sumo Wrestling

Photographing the action from the boxes has its problems as the heads of the people in front can obstruct the view. In addition, the head referees sit in the centre of each side of the Dohyo with their heads and shoulders masking the edge of ring. It is less obscured from the diagonals where there are isles which are kept strictly clear.


fig5 Sumo photo from section C

Photographing standing at the back of the arena near the diagonals is excellent, fig 5, but requires a telephoto lens of  300mm f2.8 set at iso 1000 for a shutter speed  1/320 sec ( canon 1Dmk4). There are officials at these positions but they are unlikely to bother you if you hold an appropriate seat ticket and are discreet. Disabled people in wheel chairs are also seated here and standing just behind them doesn’t cause any obstruction. I used a mono-pod and was not bothered during the  two days I stood at these positions taking photographs. This included  the top division when the stadium was packed.


fig6 sumo flash photo

A second excellent position is the 1st row  ringside, but for this you may need a press pass and the photographers are packed close together. Most of the  press photographers use flash, fig 6, as from their ringside position the competitors are partially silhouetted by the arena  floodlights.

But further back, flash is not necessary as the Dohyo is evenly lit and there is adequate fill in reflection from its surface. The 1st  row of the chaired section A on the 2nd floor  is also an excellent position, fig 7  and one can use a 70-200m f2.8. lens.


fig7 finals presentation

The stadium is generally empty for all the early divisions, see Fig 2& 3 ( earlier than 2pm)  including  the final day, so with a 1st floor ticket you can sit anywhere that is vacant until the owners turn up. Note, standing or sitting in the isles will attract an official.

The Sumo Competition Format

There are six divisions which are held each day starting at 8.00am and finishing with the top division, the makuuchi, at around 6pm. The stadium starts to fill around 3pm with the entry of the second rank division, the juryo. The tournament lasts 15days from Sunday to Sunday with all competitors in the top 2 divisions compete each day. On the final day the last three bouts are between the top 6 ranked competitors.


fig8 Hakuho Sho performs Dohyo-iri

The important thing to note is that any day is good as all the top competitors including the best compete, the overall tournament winner being the competitor who had the most wins over the whole tournament not just the last bout on the final day.
In May 2010 the winner Hakuho Sho won every one of his tournament bouts for an unbeaten record of 15-0, held the title of  Yokozuna or Grand champion,  having won many previous tournaments, fig. 8.

Getting Sumo Tickets.

The box office is open about a month before the competition. The next tournament tickets go on sale April 7. On the night before the tickets go on sale, people line up at the Kokugikan to get a reservation number for a guaranteed position in following  mornings queue to buy tickets.So getting good tickets can be difficult especially if you are overseas, and hours matter. Tickets can be purchased on line but this needs a Japanese address and bank account. I did contact who has direct access to the ticket booking process and replies promptly, he also takes pre bookings.

Access to the Sumo Stadium.


fig9 Kokugikan and Ryogoku station

The stadium is a few minutes walking distance to the JR train station. At the completion of competition 10,000 people stream out onto the streets. So there is a rush for taxis, and for the trains.

Another alternative is to stay at one of two hotels that are very close to the stadium and station. One is Hotel Bellegrande  (3 star) and the other the  more modest( 2.5 star) the Pearl.


fig10 Pearl hotel room Ryogoku

The Pearl overlooks the Kokugikan, fig 9 and is next to the train line. We could still hear the  trains through the double glazed windows of our room, but there are other rooms not facing the train line. Our room was very small but it was air-conditioned, clean, had an en-suite and king sized bed (fig 10), and was very convenient and reasonably priced.

Article Name
Sumo Wrestling Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan
Information on how to view Sumo wrestling in the Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan, Getting tickets, where to sit, competition schedule, including maps and photos.

One Comment

  1. les 30 April, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    thanks for the offer. I still have away to go before I open up the site to other contributors. Will keep your details.

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