Sumo is one of Japan’s finest cultural sports and is still strongly associated with Japan solely as a sport which is truly unique both from an athletic perspective and as a sporting spectacle. Sumo is thought to be over 2000 years old, its early origins as a formalised and professional game can be traced back to the Heian period (794 – 1192) but truly professional sumo wrestlers only started appearing in the 1800s. Sumo started as entertainment for Japan’s royal houses but now, it is a huge spectator sport and one of its main events happens each year in March in the city of Osaka at the Edion Arena.
Sumo has it all as a combat sport, the athletic might of two huge men colliding in full force combined with rich cultural tradition makes it an unforgettable experience. Sumo is not your usual contact combat sport, it draws upon the culture of ancient Japan. The wrestlers themselves can wear only the traditional mawashi belt, a belt which is ceremoniously upgraded to the keshō-mawashi for the best fighters. Sumo wrestlers themselves live communally where every aspect of their lives is organised according to strict traditions.
Sumo in Osaka
Osaka is steeped in rich Sumo tradition and is home to one of the sport’s greatest tournaments. It has become hugely popular with tourists who want to enjoy the awesome Sumo spectacle. Getting tickets isn’t often easy as some days during the tournament are subject to high demand but tickets are available online via the official Sumo website. Tickets can also be purchased through other 3rd party sellers who can organise tickets and seats for tourists.
A Sumo event typically takes place over an afternoon and involves many ceremonies and traditional rituals which help give the sport its unique dynamic for tourists. There are typically two classes of fights at Sumo’s Grand Tournaments including in Osaka. You have the Makuuchi (strong) Divison and Yokozuna (Strongest) Divison – this means you’ll see some of the best Sumo fighters Japan has to offer!
On the Day
Sumo wrestling is a high-octane sport and the audience is often very energetic. Sumo is split into 6 main divisions, each with limited numbers of wrestlers. The top wrestlers in the highest division number just 42, this division are covered by major sports networks and is popular across Asia and the rest of the world. In Osaka at the Grand Tournament, you can watch members of Yokozuna, Sumo’s highest and most prestigious order, do battle on the grand stage.
Tickets are available online through the official Sumo Association website but are available through tour operators who simplify the ticket buying process. A number of tickets are always held back for the day, also, so if you can’t get a ticket online then your luck is not totally out! Turn up at the arena early to be in with the best chance of grabbing tickets. Different types of tickets are available but are mainly classed into reserved arena seats, which are cheapest, or box seats which are considerably more expensive. If you’re looking for an ideal base from which to explore Japan, Osaka and experience Sumo then Prince Hotels and Resorts are ideally located for you to do this.