Watching Sumo practise,Tokyo – I have a number of guests coming to visit over the next couple of months. I usually travel to Tokyo with guests and / or to meet friends visiting from overseas. With next month’s visitors I will do the usual Asakusa trail, but this time I wanted to add on a trip to some Sumo stables, so I have been researching which would be best for our plans. I fixed on one in Oshiage. I wanted to share the information as I know many people are interested in finding some where that they can watch sumo wrestlers in training when there isn’t a tournament on.*
I have not been to this type of sumo stable yet, but when I worked in the Ibaraki Board of Education, I had the pleasure of visiting a Agricultural High School with a sumo club. I was very blessed to have the pleasure of touring many parts of this high school, but the highlight was watching the students of the sumo club in training and practice. The school is only one of a handful that have such a club. It is not possible for lay people to visit this club without a connection to the school and so I assumed it was the same for the stables in Tokyo. However, I was wrong and in recent years it has become very popular to watch sumo wrestlers training hard during practice.
For my upcoming tours, I have decided on Azumazeki stable in Oshiage as it fits nicely with a day tour of Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree. The stable is run by former wrestler Ushiomaru. The sumo wrestlers train everyday there is not a tournament, and in the morning between 7 am and 10.30 am they open up the stables for public viewing. If their is a tournament somewhere outside of Tokyo the stables will not be open to the public on the days of those tournaments. It is free and no reservation is required, however, if you have a group, they request you ring in advance.
They have three principle conditions and some other guidelines to entering the stable: ① you must wear a face mask, ② you must not talk and ③ no flash photography is allowed. And I should mention as it might not be obvious to visitors from outside of Japan: you are not allowed enter the ring nor stand on the markers of the ring. They also request that you turn off your phone and that you don’t bring food or drink into the stable. They do not discourage children, but as they have a rule of no sound, they request you are respectful of that. Finally, they request that you do not drive to the stables as they do not have a parking lot and as it would cause an inconvenience to neighbours.
At the end of practice they plant what is called a “gohei”. A gohei is a small wooden staff with the white shinto paper adorning it. In the sumo stable they plant it in a pile of sand in the middle of the ring. They then sprinkle the ring and gohei with salt. This custom is carried out to purify the ring, but also to pray for the safety of the sumo wrestlers.
Address: 4-6-4 Higashikomagata, Sumida, Ward, Tokyo
Hours: 7 am to 10.30 am
Language: JAPANESE ONLY
Other stables: There are about another 40 or so stables you can visit in the area, but a lot of them require that you ring in advance. Arashio Stable does not require you ring in advance and they have an English webpage. However, they no longer allow people inside to watch; you have to watch through windows from outside.
4 minute walk from Honjo-Azumabashi Station on the Toei Asakusa Line.
11 minute walk from exit B2 of the Oshiage Station.
*If you are planning a trip to Japan in the hope of seeing a Sumo Tournament, please note that Sumo Tournaments only happen during odd months, i.e the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11 months of the year. The January, May and September tournaments are in Tokyo. The March tournament is in Osaka, the July tournament is in Aichi and the November tournament is in Fukuoka.
**Featured image is from Azumazeki Beya Stable’s Facebook page**
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