Sumo Stable Visit
Sumo is not Japan’s national sport, but it is its most well known (and celebrated) of its traditional athletic competitions. Six sumo tournaments (honbasho) are held annually around Japan. Each runs for 15 consecutive days. Three take place in Tokyo—in January, May, and September. (The others are in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka, in March, July, and November, respectively.) Tickets can be rather hard to come by, so start planning at least three months before a tournament’s start. Go through the Japan Sumo Association to purchase tickets for premium seats. (You will need an address in Japan at which to receive the tickets. Major hotels are happy to take the tickets on your behalf.) Matches start at 8:30 a.m., but those are duels among trainees; intermediate divisions start midafternoon. And if a yokozuna (grand champion) loses, the crowd throws their seat cushions into the ring to show disgust. The honbasho in November and January’s Hatsu (New Year’s) Basho in Tokyo are always humdingers. Wrong timing? Consider visiting a stable to witness rikishi (wrestlers) training in their natural habitats. A good concierge will have at least one or two connections, but make sure the experience is actually private: The visit can quickly feel staged.