Enjoying Sumo More: Tips for Watching Matches from a Former Wrestler

This article is written for those who are interested in the world of sumo and those who are considering watching sumo. As a former wrestler myself, I have sweated on the dohyo (sumo ring). I would like to share the joy and points of watching sumo, using my experience. Sumo is a traditional sport in Japan, and its history and culture are deeply rooted in the hearts of the Japanese people. However, its charm is spreading not only in Japan but also around the world. I will explain the points to be aware of when watching.

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The Charm of Sumo

Sumo is a traditional sport in Japan, with a history spanning many centuries. The spectacle of wrestlers clashing on the dohyo (sumo ring) is a magnificent sight, where power, technique, and mental strength come together. Furthermore, sumo is deeply tied to Japanese culture due to its long history. It has been performed as one of the ancient Shinto rituals, dedicated to the gods. Therefore, sumo has a sacred aspect, and matches are held on the sacred dohyo. Wrestlers not only train their bodies through rigorous practice but also cultivate mental strength. Therefore, sumo is not just a test of strength but an exciting sport where technique, strategy, and mental strength are tested. Sumo stands apart from other sports due to its unique rules and rituals. Rituals such as the ring-entering ceremony and the leg-stomping not only heighten the excitement of the matches but also allow us to feel the history and culture of sumo

Points to Watch in Sumo

Sumo matches start around 8:30 in the morning and end with the final match (Musubi-no-Ichiban) at 6:00 in the evening. Since sumo viewing time is very long, my recommendation is to start with the “Top 5 Makushita Matches” that begin around 2:30 in the afternoon. After that, you can watch the Jūryō Dohyō-iri (ring-entering ceremony).

Various foods and drinks are sold at the Kokugikan and other venues, so you can enjoy them while watching. It is recommended to buy yakitori, Makunouchi bento, and beer at the Kokugikan to enjoy while watching sumo.

From the 13th day to the final day, known as Senshūraku, there are some changes in the schedule. The matches start at 10:00 in the morning, and the Jūryō Dohyō-iri (ring-entering ceremony) is around 1:45 in the afternoon. On Senshūraku, the Musubi-no-Ichiban (final match) is around 5:15 in the evening, followed by the award ceremony from around 5:30.

Things to Be Careful About When Watching Sumo


Cheering is a joy for the wrestlers. However, just before the match begins, at the moment when the bout starts, both applause and cheering are prohibited. It's a moment when the entire venue is wrapped in tension. It's also not desirable to repeatedly call out the wrestler's name. If you have a favorite wrestler, try sending them your support.

Touching the Wrestlers

It's against manners to hit the body of a wrestler heading towards the dohyō (ring) on the hanamichi (path to the ring) or to ask for an autograph. It's okay to take photos from a distance. I've been hit a few times when I was an active wrestler.

Throwing Cushions

You may have seen on TV or elsewhere where spectators throw cushions when a Yokozuna loses in the final bout (Musubi-no-Ichiban). There have been people who were injured by cushions hitting their faces. It's dangerous, so let's stop. Please applaud and cheer for the wrestler who defeated the Yokozuna.


Watching sumo live is a very enjoyable experience. I am a former wrestler, but recently I watched sumo as a spectator for the first time. I remember being incredibly moved even from the seats on the second floor where you can see the entire venue. After watching, if you are at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan, there are many restaurants around the Kokugikan that serve sumo cuisine (Chanko Nabe). There are also restaurants with a dohyō (sumo ring). There are many restaurants where you can enjoy the atmosphere of sumo, so please enjoy your evening after watching

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