16 Sep 2005

ubisumo - actually just sumo


so anil, sharpie, patricia and i went to watch the sumo wrestling at the kokuigan at ryogoku in tokyo. sumo wrestling only happens for a couple of weeks in the year, around 2 weeks at a time in march, july and september.

we were lucky enough to be in tokyo just as they were doing it here (otherwise they would have been doing it in other places like osaka.) so it was probably a once in a lifetime thing (unless i manage to land a job in japan after i graduate :)

to the skeptics out there, it is actually an amazingly fun thing to watch. nothing like a bunch of fat guys duking it out inside a tiny ring. with all the ceremony and tradition surrounding it, it is very interesting.

even before we get to the stadium, we already get out taste of whats to come. in the station itself are big posters of what were once sumo champions.

Sumo Portraits

and as the sumos finish for the day (they only have 1 match a day for 14 days straight) they just casually walk back to their hotels or stables down the busy street. normal japanese don't seem to be bothered or impressed by them, but the tourist are crazy about it. they stop them on the street to ask for photos, etc.

Kokugikan 22

we bought some unreserved tickets for ¥2100. we were lucky to get them at around 2:30pm when we finally got there, because i tried to get some tickets for sharpie at 3:30pm and they were all gone. however, it seems that on a weekday you can just rock up to the stadium and buy tickets on the day, no need to prebook anything. there are nearly 7 classes of tickets, 3 classes for the lower floor where you don't get a seat, but a long cushion where 2-3 people can sit and watch, and another 4 classes on the upper floor. the difference in distance isn't that big, but the price is. we got the unreserved tickets which is the cheapest one, but the class directly below is the class-c reserved tickets, which costs ¥3600.

if you have a radio, remember to bring it to the stadium. also, don't bother going at night because competition ends at 6pm. the most exciting competition is between 4 to 6pm, this is when the best sumo wrestlers are duking it out. at the other times, there are matches from the lower grades. however, they are just as entertaining to watch, but just that the guys are smaller and the difference in skill is very apparent. even the ref dresses differently for the bigger matches.

Kokugikan 8

we sneaked into the reserved seating because the upper level was practically empty and we managed not to get kicked out for the whole time we were there. oh yeah, there are also alot of ex-sumo wrestlers who are manning ticket booths and souvenir shops everywhere in the stadium. as the guide says, "you can probably see your one-time hero."

Huge Ticket Collectors

heaps of sumo photos and videos i took are on my tokyo photo album.

as with any sporting event, there were advertisment. but because of the tradition of the event, you can't have huge coca-cola banners everywhere, so advertisments were carried manually on flags:

Kokugikan 36

i don't know what they were advertising, but whatever it was, i wanted to buy it! they're probably diet pills.

after sumo, we managed to get on to a rush hour train (unfortunately, there was no small japanese man pushing us into the carriage at this station) to harajuku. this is where i carried out my goal of having raw fish every day. we had some sushi at a kaiten sushi place (eg. sushi train, sushi go round, etc..) the place wasn't that impressive, but we were starving and they were the only sushi place we found. turns out that alot of places here with kaiten sushi, you need to know a bit of japanese to order special sushi you want because otherwise you just get stuck with the limited choices on the conveyer belt.

anyway, by the time we finished, a lot of the shops had closed, but we're definitely going back to harajuku before we leave because there are some kick ass stores there, including the KDDI au exhibition tower where they show off their latest impressive phone designs. nevertheless, we did manage to walk 4 floors of the ´100 shops where everything in the shop is ´100. that is like 50p for UK folks and maybe $1.25 for aussies.

KDDI Design Studio


You can reply to me about this on Twitter: