Sumo 101: Tickets

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Sumo tickets go on sale roughly about six weeks before the start of every tournament.

There are various categories and prices, as well as certain kinds of seats that are unique to particular venues, but generally speaking tickets fall into two main groups — masu (box) and isu (chair).

The former means sharing a roughly 1.3 square meter box with three other people. You’ll need to sit cross-legged or seiza style to fit and even for smaller people it’s a tight squeeze.

If you are tall, or not so flexible, a chair-style seat will give a much more comfortable viewing experience. The only disadvantage is that isu seats tend to be further away from the action. At Ryogoku Kokugikan, for example, they are on the second floor.

Until a couple of years ago, it was possible to buy tickets both online and in person at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Demand however increased to the point where fans, despite camping out in front of the arena for days, found that when tickets windows opened all the best seats had already been snapped up online.

As a result, the Japan Sumo Association now conducts pre-sales solely by electronic means.

Even though sales are conducted online, a physical ticket is still either mailed to the customer or has to be picked up from a convenience store.

There are no e-tickets and losing the paper version means you will not be granted access to the event.

The majority of ticket services are Japanese language only but English language options have been slowly increasing.

Most of sumo’s best seats are sold by the chaya (teahouses). These are historical specialized agents that provide tickets and gifts to their clients — many of whom are long-term patrons.

As with season tickets in other sports, however, seats controlled by the chaya can be difficult to obtain. Often some kind of introduction by an existing client is needed.

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