Watching the Grand Sumo Tournament live in action is the best way to truly experience Japan’s national sport. It is full of ritual and ancient customs dating back 1500 years.
It started as an event held once a year to pray to the Shinto gods for a good harvest. Now, you can see the live action six times a year. Three times in Tokyo, and once a year in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka.
We were excited to get tickets to the Nagoya Basho on Day 1 of the tournament, and it did not disappoint. The last bout of the day had fans throwing seat cushions when Sekiwake Abi defeated Yokozuna Terunofuji. There was an announcement to stop throwing the cushions, but the fans just couldn’t help themselves.
When to Go
We arrived at 2:00 pm just in time to see the Juryo (intermediate division) wrestlers enter the dohyo (the 4.5 meter ring). Of the six divisions, only the top two divisions of Juryo and Makuuchi (senior division) earn a salary.
It’s fun to watch the Juryo wrestlers, but the real action starts at 3:30 pm when the top wrestlers enter the ring. These are the big guys that you’ve really come to see. From about 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, you won’t want to leave your seats.
The matches start with the lowest ranking rikishi (wrestlers) called Maegashira and progressively increase in rank from Komusubi to Sekiwake, Ozeki, and Yokozuna.
To learn more about the rituals, rules, and rankings, see Sumo Wrestling in Japan.
How to Get There
The Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament is held at the Dolphins Arena near Nagoya Castle. From Nagoya Station, you can take the subway to Shiyakusho Station. It only takes about 15 minutes, including transfers.
Take Exit 7 at Shiyakusho Station and walk about 5 minutes to the Dolphins Arena. It’s a nice walk with the Nagoya Castle moat on the left, and shops and restaurants on the right.
As you get closer, you’ll see a drum tower made out of bamboo and hand-painted colorful flags, called Nobori, which display the names of the sumo stables, sumo wrestlers and their sponsors.
What to Expect
When you arrive, stand in line and show your ticket. Most of the event is in Japanese, but you can ask for an English pamphlet at the entrance. The pamphlet shows the rankings of the top wrestlers and the bouts of the day.
On this particular day, there were COVID-19 protocols in place. Everyone had to wear a mask and shouting was prohibited. You could only clap to cheer for your favorite wrestlers.
Luckily, there were still snacks and alcohol for sale, which you were allowed to enjoy in your seat.
Nagoya Basho Seating
With our tours, we usually get Chair Seats because sitting on the floor is not the most comfortable thing to do. Because it was just the two of us, we opted for the Box Seat C, called Masu-seki, with a table.
In the past, we’ve tried the Box Seat with four people, but it’s extremely tight and uncomfortable. The Box Seat C with the table is the same size space as the four seat Box Seat, but is for two people and a table.
Although a little more expensive, I highly recommend it. It offered more space and the table came in handy to place drinks, snacks, camera, phone, etc.
Grand Sumo Tournament Tickets
Tickets go on sale about a month before the tournaments. A ticket is valid for one day. You can enter from 8:30 am and the last bout finishes just before 6:00 pm.
Tickets are available at the Nihon Sumo Kyokai website. If you’re in Japan, you can buy them at the Lawson’s convenience store.
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