Recently, we went to the second to last day of the September sumo tournament at Ryogoku stadium in Tokyo. We really enjoyed ourselves! We also learned a lot about buying discount tickets and the schedule of the tournament. We'd like to share that information so other people can have an enjoyable and stress-free experience.
This information is only based on our experiences with the Tokyo tournament - we don't know if it is the same for the other locations in Japan.
Here's the general plan for the day that we suggest. The details are further down.
Go early in morning to buy tickets. Have late Japanese breakfast at fast food place. Go to Tokyo Edo museum next to sumo stadium. It is one of the best in Tokyo - fascinating. If you can get a free guide in your language, go for it. At a minimum, visit the museum gift shop. It has many wonderful and beautiful gifts - some of the best in Japan. Go have chanko for lunch. Either walk around or go back to museum for awhile. Go to convenience store to stock on on food and drink. Go to sumo tournament around 2 pm if you want to see a lot of sumo. Around 3:45 will catch the top wrestlers. Watch and enjoy. Afterwards, go to Popeye's nearby, a bar with one of the largest selection of draft beers in all of Japan. It is expensive (about 1000 yen a beer), but you can try some Japanese microbeers you will find no where else.
There are 350 discount tickets available everyday on a first come, first serve basis. The cost is 2,100. I believe the next cheapest tickets are 3,600 yen. These tickets are for the seats at the very top of the stadium. The view is really not that bad, and if you go on a non-busy day (not Day1, 8 or 15 [last]), you can usually move lower down
The discount tickets go on sale at 8 AM. When we arrived on Saturday (Day 14) at around 8:30 AM, there were about 300 tickets left. We were able to buy two extra tickets for our friends who had not arrived. If it is crowded (if there is a line), it is one ticket per person, though. By just past 10 AM, the discount tickets were sold out. We talked to the ticket agent about other days, and she said that on the busy days (Days 1, 8 and 15), there is usually a loooong line by 8 AM, and the tickets sell out very fast - so don't show up late on those days!
Chanko is a very famous sumo wrestler dish - a big, hot, soupy bowl of meat and veggies - delicious! Across the street from the station is a McDonald's. Next to it is a chanko restaurant that has a very good lunch chanko set for 1050 yen. We have had it twice and enjoyed it both times.
Also, you can bring in your own food, snacks and drinks, so feel free to stock up on what you need at the convenience store on the other side of the station from the stadium. If you wait to buy food and drink at the stadium during the breaks, there will be very long lines.
You can rent a radio set from the stadium for 100 yen with a 2000 yen deposit. With it, you can listen to an English language commentary which really helps you understand what you are seeing. We recommend it highly.
The juniors ceremonial entrance is at 2:20 PM or so, where they wear their ceremonial kesho-mawashi (aprons). Their matches begin soon after.
The senior division has their ceremonial entrance around 3:45 PM. They begin sometime after 4 PM. Unless you are a die hard fan and want to watch four hours of sumo, we might recommend going for just the senior division around 3:45 PM.
More details can be found at www.sumo.or.jp/eng/index.html
We are also able to watch the last day's matches on the Internet on the sumo association's website at:
(update - that service is no longer available)
It is possible to buy tickets in advance on the Internet, but the website is in Japanese, and you will need to create an account. Once purchased, the tickets can be printed out at almost any convenience store>
If you have any questions, please post a comment! Have a good time next year...