There are no sumo tournaments held in Kyoto, but there are tournaments held in Osaka (11 minutes away by bullet train) and Nagoya (40 minutes away by bullet train). Thus, you can easily enjoy sumo while staying in Kyoto.
魁皇関 vs 千代大海関 © m-louis
Sumo is not held in Kyoto but you can easily attend the March tournament in Osaka (11 minutes by bullet train) and the July tournament in Nagoya (40 minutes by bullet train). And, in January, May and September, sumo is held in Tokyo, which is only 2.5 hours from Kyoto by bullet train. Here’s all the information you need to catch a sumo tournament while in Japan.
Sumo tournaments (known as basho in Japanese) usually last two weeks, with daily matches during this period. The best place to find out about upcoming schedules is the Japan Sumo Association site (in English):
How to Buy Sumo Tickets
Same-day Ticket Purchase
It is possible to buy tickets for sumo in person at the stadium on the day of a tournament. These are called “tojitsu-ken” (same-day tickets) and they are sold at a box office right at the sumo stadium where the match is being held (Nagoya, Tokyo, Osaka etc). But, keep in mind that you must show up early and stand on line and tickets might sell out before you get to the front of the line. Your best bet is a weekday match early in the tournament (later matches and weekend matches attract more people and sell out earlier).
Tojitsu-ken go on sale for that day’s matches at 8.20am at the stadium, but you should be there at least an hour early to have a chance of getting tickets. And there is a limit of one ticket per person. Thus, if you’re starting from Kyoto, it will require an early start and a shinkansen ride to get to the stadium in time to buy tickets (and you’ll probably only succeed for weekday matches early in the tournament). A better option is to use the Ticket Oosumo service described below in the Online Advance Ticket Purchase section.
Seat Types And Ticket Prices
The best seats are on the shomen (north section). The south seats are also good. The east and west side seats have worse views.
Here are some sample ticket prices per person for tickets purchased on the same day at the stadium (online advance-purchase prices will differ slightly):
- Tamari: Y14,300
- Masu A: Y11,300
- Masu B: Y10,300
- Isu A: Y4700
- Isu B: Y3200
- Jiyuseki: Y2800 (adult) 200 (child 4-15 years of age)
Tamari are the ringside “box” seats. Actually, these are square areas where you sit on the floor. Masu seats are similar but a few rows back. Isu seats are normal stadium seats behind the masu seats (isu means chair in Japanese). Jiyuseki are standing areas behind the isu seats. For more information on seats, see Ticket Oosumo
Online Advance Ticket Purchase:
You can purchase sumo tickets in advance at the English-language site Ticket Oosumo. This is a reliable service that allows you to buy your tickets online and then pick them up at the stadium in question.
Tips For Watching The Sumo Tournament
Here’s some useful information for the actual day of the tournament:
- English bout schedules are available at the stadium.
- Entry is possible from about 8.30am.
- The best matches (upper ranks) happen between 4pm and 6pm.
- You can descend to the good masu or even tamari seats before their actual ticket holders arrive.
- In the masu/tamari seats, you must take off your shoes and stow them behind you in the shoe storage area.
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)