Overseas Visitors Love Sumo! Guide to Taking Overseas VIP Guests to See Sumo
Sumo wrestling is one of Japan’s most traditional sports. Certainly Japanese people have all seen sumo matches on television and in the news, but there are probably plenty of people who have not been to see a match in person.
If you want to take your important overseas customers to a sumo-wrestling event but are finding it hard to obtain tickets and/or are unsure of what kind of event is best to offer them, please give the various sumo-related activities introduced in this post a look.
The Allure of Sumo
There are a lot of people overseas who haven’t even heard of sumo.
That’s because outside of Japan opportunities to view sumo wrestling are limited, and obtaining information about it is not always an easy task.
Practically the only way to watch sumo wrestling overseas is through channels aimed at Japanese people living abroad, which doesn’t help the low ratings.
There are ways to watch sumo wrestling online, but online broadcasts are aimed at people who are already knowledgeable about sumo wrestling, and as such it can be hard for people who don’t know the sport very well to follow.
You can’t really blame people overseas for sumo’s lack of popularity given the difficulty of following the sport outside of Japan, but it’s still unfortunate that sumo wrestling has never gotten the recognition and attention it deserves overseas.
There are some people who see sumo for the first time and react with bewilderment, wondering why anyone would want to watch two fat, nearly naked men push each other around.
It’s not uncommon for slightly chubby Japanese people living overseas to be told that they should become a sumo wrestler.
There are people who find it funny to equate large, fat Japanese people with sumo wrestling.
Overseas VIPs and Sumo
Of all the leaders of overseas countries that have been to a professional sumo-wrestling event in Japan, one who is particularly well known for enjoying the sport is Jacques Chirac, former president of France and a known Japanophile.
He loved the sport so much that he even named his dog “Sumo” and went to see many professional sumo-wrestling matches during his time in office.
Recently a good number of world leaders have been invited to see sumo when they visit Japan.
Even President Trump was reportedly taken to see a sumo-wrestling event.
In this same vein, it appears that sumo wrestling is gaining popularity as a must-see Japanese entertainment event amongst VIP customers visiting Japan.
What Overseas Visitors Enjoy About Sumo
When overseas visitors are asked what they find interesting about sumo-wrestling, common answers include watching a smaller sumo wrestler defeat a much larger opponent; the short duration of the matches; the easy-to-understand rules; the overwhelming size and strength of the wrestlers; and the distinctive chonmage, or topknot hairstyle, worn by the wrestlers.
The Ring and the Appearance of the Wrestlers is impressive
Sumo is compelling, from the strength of sumo wrestlers and the distinctive loincloth called mawashi, to the special ceremonies surrounding entering the ring and the dignified atmosphere of the venue.
It is said that overseas visitors particularly enjoy the great number of distinctive Japanese charms within sumo.
The Rules are Simple and Easy to Understand
When talking about the interesting facets of sumo, certainly one cannot forget the matches themselves.
The simplicity of the rules is a major part of what makes sumo so much fun.
There are only three rules that decide a match:
① If you force your opponent step out of bounds, you win.
② If you force your opponent to touch the ground with something other than the bottom of his feet, you win.
③ If your opponent violates a rule, you win.
A complete beginner to sumo wrestling can watch a match and enjoy it right away. There is very little barrier of entry.
Unlike other sports that require either timekeeping or a points system to determine a match, in sumo, the match simply ends once one wrestler is defeated.
There are few experiences more exhilarating than seeing a match outcome decided by one quick move.
Also, due to there being zero weight restrictions, the possibilities are endless. One match you might get to watch two massive 200kg heavyweights battle it out, and in the next, you might see a smaller wrestler send a clearly much larger opponent flying with one special technique. Each match is unique and exciting, and you won’t be able to resist screaming and cheering at the top of your lungs.
The only way to fully experience the incredible, showy atmosphere of a sumo tournament, and to feel the power and excitement behind every move, is to go see a sumo event in person.
Lately quite a number of retired sumo wrestlers have found a second career managing chanko restaurants. These restaurants serve chanko nabe, a famous hotpot dish eaten by sumo wrestlers, and even sometimes hold live sumo events for the enjoyment of the guests.
Sumo Entertainment Events
Official professional sumo tournaments are held over two-week periods during the odd-numbered months.
In January, May, and September they are held in Tokyo, in March they are held in Osaka, in July they are held in Aichi, and in November they are held in Fukuoka.
The price of tickets depends on the location or the type of seat, but generally unreserved seating in the upper deck will cost around 2,000 – 3,000 yen, and seats close to the ring will cost around 10,000 yen.
Tickets can be bought through travel agencies and online ticketing websites, among other places. As there are some events that sell same-day tickets, you should make sure to check online for information about the event beforehand.
Important Spectator Etiquette
Here are some important rules to abide by when attending a sports game in Japan that overseas guests should be warned about.
① Do not move seats during a match.
② Do not wear a hat that could obstruct the view of spectators around you.
③ Do not throw the seat cushions.
④ Do not engage in heckling or name-calling, or any other type of insulting cheer.
As sumo is a dignified sport, rich with history and tradition, it is important to watch while respecting this basic etiquette.
Ways Your Guest Can Enjoy Sumo if they Can’t Attend an Official Tournament
If there are no honbasho (the official sumo tournaments that are held periodically throughout the year) being held during your guest’s stay in Japan, then worry not!
There are other ways to enjoy sumo outside of the official tournaments. I will introduce two right here.
Viewing of Early Morning Training at a Sumo-beya (Sumo-wrestling Stable)
A sumo-beya (which can be translated as stable or training quarters), is where sumo wrestlers live and train together with their affiliated group.
Most sumo-beya are located in Tokyo, so Tokyo is a great place to go for people who want to see sumo in person.
The time period that each sumo-beya is open to visitors differs depending on the establishment, but they are commonly open for viewing from 6:00am to 9:00am.
If your guest has a particular wrester that they really want to see, you can try directly enquiring to the establishment that the wrestler is affiliated with.
You can check each sumo-beya’s website for detailed information about visiting times or the need to make reservations.
During periods when there is no honbasho, sumo wrestlers often tour the country to hold public training sessions, handshake events, ring entrance procession ceremonies, and even perform matches.
Tours are generally held in Kansai, Tōkai, and Kantō in the spring, in Tohoku and Hokkaido in the summer, in Kantō and Hokuriku in the fall, and Kyushu and Okinawa in the winter.
The schedule is listed on the Japan Sumo Association’s official website, so you can check for detailed information there.
So what do you think? Going to a sumo-wrestling event is a truly exciting experience. There’s nothing quite like hearing the smack of every collision and the intensity of every breath, and you’ll surely be impressed by the daring the wrestlers display with every move.
There is plenty of opportunity to share the wonder of sumo wrestling with your overseas VIP guests.
Those of you, who are interested in arranging for your overseas guests to see a sumo event, please check the scheduling for the various types of events outlined in this post.