If you’re looking for an exciting and unique cultural experience in Japan, then visiting a Sumo tournament should be at the top of your list.

Sumo is a traditional Japanese martial art and one of the most popular sports in the country. It is a combination of grappling, pushing and throwing techniques and is rooted in the Shinto religion.

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What is Sumo?

Photo by Alan Stoddard

A Sumo tournament is a spectacle of both strength and skill. It is a highly ritualized form of wrestling with a strict set of rules and a referee to ensure all bouts are conducted fairly and safely. The bouts are usually very short, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

The History of Sumo


Sumo is one of the most ancient and sacred sports in Japan. It is thought to have originated as a form of religious ritual, as a way to please the gods, and to pray for a good harvest. Over the centuries, sumo has evolved and become a popular form of entertainment.

Rituals and Tradition

Sumo has a rich history of rituals and traditions. Before a match, the wrestlers perform a ritual called shiko, where they stomp the ground and clap their hands to ward off evil spirits. The wrestlers also wear a special mawashi belt and top knot, called a chonmage.

What is the Run-Down of a Sumo Tournament?

At the start of the tournament, wrestlers will bow to each other and then proceed to the center of the ring, or “dohyo”. After a minute or two of motionless posturing, the wrestlers will spring into action and attempt to throw their opponent out of the ring or force them onto the floor. It is a thrilling sight to behold and spectators often cheer and shout encouraging words as the athletes fight for victory.

At the end of the tournament, the winners are presented with a cup and a ceremonial belt. It is a way to honor their victory and celebrate the sport’s rich tradition.

In addition to attending a Sumo tournament, you can also visit one of the many Sumo training stables throughout Japan. Here, you can learn more about the sport, watch wrestlers train and even get the chance to meet the sumo wrestlers.

Trying Sumo

If you are in Tokyo, the Sumo Experience & Chanko Hot Pot Lunch experience might be a good fit for you.

(Source: KLOOK)

The program includes a sumo demonstration with an explanation in English. After the demonstration, you’ll enjoy a Chanko lunch, a Japanese-style hotpot said to give you lots of stamina, prepared by the wrestlers themselves. Here, you can even face the wrestlers in a playful duel!

To gain a deeper understanding of the Sumo sport and its rituals, this experience is a must-do. Not only will you learn about the sport, but you’ll get to interact with pro-sumo wrestlers up close and personal. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious Chanko lunch. What more could you ask for?

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for an exciting and unique cultural experience in Japan, then attending a Sumo tournament should be at the top of your list. It is a great way to experience the power and beauty of this ancient martial art.

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