Sumo

Sumo 101: Stable locations and layout

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

The majority of sumo stables are concentrated in a couple of locations not far from Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Of the 48 currently active stables, roughly half are within two kilometers of the sport’s main arena

Shikihide Beya and Tatsunami Beya, both situated in Ibaraki Prefecture, are the furthest from sumo’s heartland.

Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa also host sumo stables.

In recent years a few stables have relocated.

Before its move, Tatsunami Beya used to be one of the closest to the Kokugikan.

Moves happen for a variety of reasons, but one recent development has been cities actively lobbying for stables to switch.

Katsushika ward convinced Azumazeki Stable to set up shop in northeastern Tokyo. The area, long famous for Tora-San and Shibamata, was looking to add other tourist attractions and found a willing partner in Azumazeki, as the old heya building didn’t have sufficient space.

While there are large differences in physical size between stables, virtually all of them have the same layout.

Generally the practice ring is located immediately inside the entrance on the first floor.

Adjacent to that is the kitchen. In many stables, rikishi eat the meal following morning practice in the viewing area beside the ring.

The second floor normally has at least one large open room where the lower-ranked wrestlers sleep. Personal storage usually consists of nothing more than a plastic container.

Third floors are often private rooms where the stablemaster and his family as well as sekitori-level rikishi live.

Some stables also have private gyms, but those aren’t the norm.

In quite a few heya, the viewing areas are so narrow that visitors sit no more than 10-20 cm away from the ring, occasionally leading to some heart-stopping moments.