Three times a year, there is a national level sumo tournament held in Tokyo. The Honbasho is the professional sumo tournament that allows sumo wrestlers (rikishi) to move through divisions. It lasts for 15 days where the goal of each rikishi is to achieve the majority of wins to ensure a promotion for the next tournament.
To win a match, the rikishi must force his opponent to step out of the ring, or force his opponent to touch the ground with any part of his body other than the bottom of his feet. An interesting rule of the sport is that there is no weight limit, or different weight classes like in boxing or american wrestling. As a result, it is possible, and quite common in low divisions to see a large weight disparity between opponents. It also helps illustrates that the sport is not solely dependent on the size and strength of the sumo, but also speed.
A good tip to know is that if you arrive at the arena in the morning, it is possible to get a ring side view of the low division matches. Only in the afternoon is where the high division matches take place, and you have to reserve the seats. But for those who are just interested to see what is the buzz around sumo, going in the morning and watching it from the ring side will give you a good impression of the sport.
NOBORI FLAGS – The banners outside of the Ryougoku Kokugikan, largest sumo area in Japan. The Ryougoku Kokugikan is the main site for the January hatsu (new year), May’s natsu (summer) and September aki (autumn) sumo tournaments.
SUMO MATCH – Two sumos prepare to start a bout. The bout is started when both opponents touch the arena floor with both fists.
ENTERING CEREMONY – The division participants form a circle around the referee who performs the dohyou-iri.
ENTER THE SUMO – Each sumo participant throws salt onto the arena floor before the bout.
RYOUGOKU KOKUGIKAN – View of the entire arena from the top seat normally bought by casual/tourist spectators. Seats are about 2900円.