Ryōgoku Kokugikan

Top choice spectator sport in Asakusa & Sumida River

Image by J. Henning Buchholz Shutterstock

If you’re in town when a tournament is on, don't miss the chance to catch the big boys of Japanese wrestling in action at the country's largest sumo stadium. The key spectacle is around 3.45pm when the makuuchi (top division) wrestlers in elaborately decorated aprons parade into the ring. Tickets can be bought online one month before the tournament opens.

Tournaments run for 15 days each January, May and September. Doors open at 8am, but the action doesn’t heat up until the senior wrestlers hit the ring around 2pm.

For the opening and closing days and the days in between that fall on the weekend you can expect advance purchase seats to sell out. Around 200 general-admission tickets (¥2100) are sold on the day of the match from the box office in front of the stadium. You'll have to line up very early (at the latest from 6am) to buy one.

If you arrive in the morning when the stadium is still fairly empty, you can usually sneak down to the box seats for a closer view. Rent a radio (¥100 fee, plus ¥2000 deposit) to listen to commentary in English. Stop by the basement banquet hall to sample chanko-nabe (the protein-rich stew eaten by the wrestlers) for just ¥300 a bowl.