How to see the Grand Sumo Tournament

Sumo tournament

If your visit to Tokyo is during the period the Grand Sumo Tournament is held (mid January, mid May and mid September) then you should certainly not miss the opportunity to see this in person.


All seats are reserved; there used to be a non-reserved seat (The last row 14 of the arena) but this has been discontinued and they are now being sold as "Reserved D" seats.


Tickets for the first and final day usually sell out very quickly, but seats for days 2-6 on a weekday tend to remain until the last minute.


When: Normally the tournament starts on the second Sunday and goes on for 15 consecutive days, thus ending again on a Sunday.


For 2023:

January tournament (TOKYO) Jan 8-22

March tournament (OSAKA) Mar 12-26, tickets on sale Feb 5

May tournament (TOKYO) May 14-28, tickets on sale Apr 8

July tournament (NAGOYA) July 9-23, tickets on sale May 27

September tournament (TOKYO) Sep 10-24, tickets on sale Aug 5

November tournament (FUKUOKA) Nov 12-26, tickets on sale Sep 16


What time: The wrestlers in the lower categories start before 9 am, however the top-ranked wrestlers only appear around 4 pm. This is when a majority of the crowd shows up, though you're free to arrive at any time of the day. You are permitted re-entry just once, and you must arrive back by 5pm. The final match featuring the Yokozuna (highest-ranked wrestler) finishes shortly before 6 pm. 

During the final 15th day of the tournament, the final match is over around 5:30 pm, with the awards ceremony following that.

Here is a video I's a bit long but gives you the rough timetable of a day at the tournament. Note the empty seats are because these were taken in late 2020 when there was a limit on the number of spectators allowed. 


The view is from the front side ("Shomen"), the same angle as the TV broadcasts.

How is the view from my seat?

The Kokugikan arena has capacity of around 11,000 with a lower deck and upper deck. There is a clear view from every seat; no pillars that would obstruct the view.


Seats in the lower bowl are the traditional Japanese type where one takes off their shoes and sit on a cushion. There are box seats accommodating 4-6 people. The front row Tamari seats are rarely sold to the public, usually secured well in advance by long-time sponsors.


The upper deck features the normal arena type seats with decent legroom, and most international visitors will find these seats to be far more comfortable than the traditional ones. (Imagine sitting on the floor with no back support for a few hours - it's quite tough, even for a Japanese!)


For both the lower and upper deck, category A is closer to the ring, category C further away.

Kokugikan seat view
Sumo tournament seating

Shomen 正面 is the same front angle that you will see on TV broadcasts. Since there is no price difference between the other three sides, these seats tend to sell faster. All of the ceremonial events will be done with the wrestlers facing this way.

Sumo muko-jomen seat

Muko-jomen 向正面 refers to the reverse side of the ring. One advantage is that you will have a better view of the Hanamichi, the passageway where the wrestlers appear and exit. 

東Higashi/East and 西Nishi/West refers to the seats with a side view of the ring, at least at the beginning of the match. Don't be too disappointed if you get these seats because once the match begins, there's no telling which direction the wrestlers will be going. You might end up having the best angle of what happened at the conclusion of the match.


The Kokugikan is configured specifically for sumo, with the arena in an even square shape so there is a clear view from any angle. On the other hand, the arena in Osaka is in a rectangular design more suitable for basketball or volleyball so seats towards the ends will have a very distant view of the ring.

Dohyo Matsuri

Other chances to see Sumo


1) Seeing Dohyo Matsuri

The Dohyo Matsuri is a Shinto ritual that is done the day before the Grand Sumo Tournament starts.

Open to the public for free, the gates open around 9:45 and the ceremony starts at 10 am. This is a ceremony to purify the ring and wishing for the tournament to be carried out safely without injuries. 

There are no matches held this day, but all of the wrestlers in the top category attend this event, so this is a chance to see the wrestlers up close.


NOTE: Since the pandemic, this event is closed to the public.

2) Going to a Jungyo - regional exhibitions

There are numerous Jungyos, which can be translated either as a regional or exhibition tournament. They are held in April, August and October, a period in between the main tournaments.

While most Jungyos are held in rural communities, a few are held in central Tokyo as well. In April, there is an event at the Yasukuni Shrine and prior to the pandemic, the Kitte Shopping Mall near the Tokyo Station hosted an event in August.


See details about the April event at the Yasukuni Shrine HERE.


The program will feature a comical explanation of the rules, chance to see the wrestlers getting their distinctive hairstyle done, and small kids challenging the wrestlers. There are also head to head battles of the top ranked wrestlers towards the end of the program, usually happening around 3 pm. The results in the exhibition don't really mean anything for the wrestlers so the atmosphere is much more relaxed in comparison with the actual tournaments.


Jungyos in the Tokyo area - April 2023 

April 15 (Sat) at Fujisawa, Kanagawa 9am-3pm

April 16 (Sun) at Machida, Tokyo 9am-3pm

April 17 (Mon) Ceremonial event at Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo (8:30am-Free entrance but limited capacity)

April 22 (Sat) at Yokohama Arena, 9am-3pm

April 29 (Sat) at Kawasaki Todoroki Arena, 9am-3pm

Sumo retirement ceremony
The master of the Onoe Stable cutting off the top knot of the former wrestler Satoyama

3) Retirement Ceremony


Wrestlers who played in the top division are entitled to hold a special ceremony at the Kokugikan, usually happening on the weekend after the January/May/September tournament has finished.


The program is similar to that of a Jungyo, and you will get to see exhibition matches of wrestlers in the top division.


The climax is when the top-notch of the wrestler is removed, usually the stable master who has the honor of cutting it off. It's an emotional moment as it truly signals the end of the career for that wrestler.

4) Additional Events hosted by TV Networks

In February, Fuji TV and the national televsion network NHK host a one-day tournament at the Kokugikan Arena.

The Fuji TV event is held on the first or second Sunday while the NHK event is always held on the 11th as a charity event.

*For 2023, they are scheduled on Feb 4 (Sat) and 5 (Sun)

Again, the program would be similar to those seen in Jungyos.