If the timing of your visit doesn't allow you to see the Sumo Tournament in Ryogoku (held for 15 days during January, May and September - more information here), you still have a chance to get a close look at a morning practice held in one of the 45 sumo beyas (stables)
There are two ways to do this:
1) For free at a sumo stable that lets you view from the outside
2) For a fee at a sumo stable that allows booked guests to enter and view the training inside.
Either way, the practices start early in the morning (usually around 7:30-8am) and will continue for 1-2 hours, the duration depending on the condition of the wrestlers.
Normally the stables only have one ring so the lower ranked wrestlers practice first followed by the higher ranks.
The wrestlers will not be in Tokyo for all of March, July and November to compete in tournaments in other regions. Practices are also not held for about a week after the tournaments finish.
Some visitors may want to just take a quick peek, take a few photos and then move on.
The Arashio Beya sumo stable allows a viewing from the outside through a window. You cannot make any reservations or get a seat inside - you simply show up at the right time hoping it's a practice day and quietly watch the training from the street. Normally the training starts at 7:30 am and continues until 9:30.
Since the news of COVID broke out, the Arashio Beya had asked for visitors to refrain from watching on the street. Starting in April 2023, the stable began to allow viewing again.
Look for the latest announcements posted on the Arashio Beya website.
http://arashio.net/tour_e.html (External site)
*Update April 3 - The stable now posts a calendar indicating the training schedule for the next few days. This information was not offered previously and hopefully they can continue to provide these helpful updates!
The stable is located at 2-47-2 Nihonbashi Hamacho, Chuo-ku. It is about a minute away from the A2 Exit of the Hamacho Station on the Toei Shinjuku subway line.
Reminder: NEVER attempt to enter the building! If you see people inside, they are the sponsor of the stable that have made special arrangements.
The other option is to make a reservation to view the training from a up close distance. Only a few stables allow outside visitors to watch so securing a slot could be extremely difficult during the tourism peak season such as April and October.
Booking is available through the platform ToursByLocals.
Note on the pricing:
*The transportation fees to get from your hotel to the sumo stable not included.
*The exact location and meeting time can usually be confirmed about a week before your visit - expect an early start of around 7am.
*The guide can't talk during the practice. Any questions, will be happy to answer them after the training finishes!
In some cases, the booking link will not work while I do some maintenance on the reservation platform or if it is outside the season when viewing the practice is possible.
You can always check the availability through the contact form if you would like further information.
Rules of the visit:
Strictly NO talking, eating, drinking allowed during practice...
You will have to sit directly on the floors during practice with your legs crossed. Sumo is a sport that has close relations with the Shinto religion and the ring is considered a sacred place - do not show the soles of your feet to the ring or the wrestlers. Tattoos are seen with a very negative image in a traditional environment, so please cover them if possible.
The exact location of the practice will not be available until a few days before training. Usually the location is within the Asakusa/Ryogoku area in the downtown Tokyo but occasionally it is further out in the suburbs. You cannot request for a specific stable to visit.
Important : In a few occasions, the practices may be shortened due to the condition of the wrestlers.
Please acknowledge the sumo practice is not a show for tourists and understand this possibility when you book. The duration can vary from anywhere between 30 minutes - 2 hours.
Photography without flash is permitted, but videos are never allowed.
Just so you know - The photo shows the usual environment for watching the training...directly sitting on the floor with a thin cushion provided. While the Japanese are used to this kind of sitting style, obviously this will not be ideal for anyone with leg or back pain...
Some publications will mention the possibility of tourists calling the sumo stable directly to secure a visit. This indeed was possible until about 2015, when Japan did not have as much international visitors as now.
Now with more interest in the sumo training, many sumo stables have simply shut the doors to avoid any hassle so the athletes can concentrate on the training.