Key: R20100115-194005 [Nobori (flags) fly outside the Ryogoku Kokugikan (sumo stadium) on a sunny but brisk winter day in Tokyo.]
Key: R20100117-213334-crop [Sumo wrestlers face off in the Ryogoku Kokugikan. Click the image for a bigger view.]
Today was the day I was looking forward to most on my brief trip to Japan. Luckily, my trip coincided with the January two-week sumo tournament in Tokyo and I was determined to go. The stadium was sold out on the weekend, but fortunately I got a ticket for Monday, when most everyone had gone back to work. Not only that, but I got first row on the second level!
Sumo is an ancient sport dating back some 1500 years. The Japanese have carefully protected and preserved the traditions of the sport, resulting in a very unique spectacle for the observer. The atmosphere is very festive with lots of shouting for the favorites and cheering for good bouts. Bentos, sake and beer are on sale along with just about anything else you might want to accompany the show. If you make a trip to Japan I can highly recommend going. My ticket was around Y8200, which was about $90 by in today’s exchange rate. There are cheaper tickets available and the seeing is pretty good from just about anywhere. The ticket is good for the whole day, but unless you want to watch 10 hours of sumo, I recommend going after lunch. Reason? The day starts with the lowest ranked division matches and gradually goes through the higher ranks, finishing with the yokozuna (highest ranked wrestlers) around 6pm. The rituals and costumes get grander and grander through the higher ranks (and the bouts are better too).