Traditional Sumo Stables (and Their Practice) You Must See in Tokyo
Sumo is a festive ritual from the ancient times of Japan with itself also being a form of martial arts. Watching the bouts are good, but their practice at a sumo stable (Sumo-Beya, a building where sumo wrestlers belong to and practice in) is also a must-see. You can see from up close, the wrestlers devoting themselves to practice, aspiring to step onto that sacred sumo ring. This time, we will present you with the selected sumo stables that allow visitors into their training halls.
Sumo derives from a ritual offered to the gods praying for peace and harvest, where the contenders wrestle on a round ring called "Dohyo". So upon your visit to see a sumo practice, we advise you to tour quietly and refrain from talking with a loud voice. In these places, food, drinks and smoking will definitely be a "no". While some of them do not allow any photography or filming, others may only forbid the flash. So be sure to keep your mobiles and smartphones off and follow the instructions given by the guide.
Standing by an alley near Sumida river, Arashio-Beya, a stable founded by an ex-second-grade-junior-champion 'Taiho', is located a minute's walk from Hamacho station of the Toei Shinjuku line. The training hall has a large window which lets you see their morning practices freely between 6:30 am - 10:00 am. Be careful though, as their afternoon practices are not opened to visitors. Also, they do not accept any booking, for they want you to see their usual practice as it is. As it's a closed book whether they will have a morning practice, you would need to check by phone between 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm, a day before your planned visit date.
Located near Ryogoku station of Toei Oedo line, Hakkaku-Beya is a stable founded by Hakkaku-oyakata, formerly known as the 61st yokozuna, 'Hokutoumi'. No booking is needed to see their morning practices, but visitors are advised to call beforehand, for the training may be closed at times. Their practice usually takes place between 7:00 am - 10:00 am. There is no bell at the entrance hall, so don't forget to say hello before you go in. The attendant will come to you shortly and give you a brief guide. Be sure to follow the instructions and enjoy the tour quietly. No talking will be allowed in the training hall, but photos are allowed with the flash off. Be careful with your mobiles though, as they forbid devices with shutter sounds.
Founded by Daigoro, the 12th azumazeki known as 'Takamiyama', the Azumazeki stable is located within 3 minutes' walk from the A2 exit of Honjo-azumabashi station in the Toei Asakusa line. Visits to their practice can be made between 7:00 am - 10:30 pm. There is a limit to the number of visitors, so if you are to visit in a large group, we recommend that you contact them in advance. To make sure you visit them on the right date, make your call in the evening of the day before your planned visit date, as the wrestlers occasionally take training visits to other stables.
So how do you think? The official sumo bouts are tempting, but feeling the intensity of these practices up front, is surely another thing you would not want to miss. If you get the chance, give it a try! It will be well worth your visit.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.