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Explore the Sumo and Edo Culture! A Sightseeing Guide to Tokyo’s Ryogoku Area

Ryogoku is an area in Tokyo that is famous as the holy ground of sumo, which is Japan’s national sport. Its vicinity is filled with facilities and spots that pass on the traditions and culture of the Edo period (1603 – 1868). Below is an in-depth take on the charms of Ryogoku.

What Sort of Town is Ryogoku?

Ryogoku is a working-class downtown area in Tokyo that is located on the southwest area of Sumida Ward. It is popular for being the site of Ryogoku Kokugikan, where sumo matches are held, and for being the Sumo no Machi (town of sumo). This name stems from the many sumo stables nearby.

What Sort of Town is Ryogoku?

Ryogoku-Edo NOREN 1F, 1-3-20 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Ryogoku Kokugikan: You Might Meet a Sumo Wrestler!

Ryogoku Kokugikan, with a capacity of more than 11,000 guests, is an indoor sporting arena where sumo matches, martial arts tournaments, musical shows and other events are held. It was founded in 1909 and was temporarily transferred to another location, but was later on rebuilt in the Ryogoku area in 1985. There is a factory that specializes in yakitori (pieces of chicken grilled on a skewer) at the basement of this stadium. The sticks of yakitori are sold as Kokugikan Yakitori (650 JPY (incl. tax)). They say that two-legged birds bring good luck, as their hands do not touch the ground, so the yakitori plant was apparently built under the ring. They are famous for their aromatic smell and salty-sweet taste.

Ryogoku Kokugikan: You Might Meet a Sumo Wrestler!

1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Sumo Museum: Learn About Sumo

Sumo Museum is a museum inside Ryogoku Kokugikan that collects, stores and displays (six times a year) various sumo-related materials and documents. Entry to this museum is free, but during the Tokyo sumo tournaments in January, May and September, exhibition matches held to commemorate a wrestler’s retirement, and other events, guests are required to show an admission ticket.

Sumo Museum: Learn About Sumo

1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

The Sumida Hokusai Museum: Enjoy Art

Sumida is the birthplace of the famous artist, Katsushika Hokusai. This museum showcases a collection of his various works, as well as touch panel-type information equipment and a corner that reproduces his art studio.

Admission fee for the permanent exhibitions:
Adults: 400 JPY
High school/college/vocational school students and guests 65 years old and above: 300 JPY
Middle school students and younger guests: Free
※The admission fees for the planned exhibits vary depending on the exhibition

The Sumida Hokusai Museum: Enjoy Art

2-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Ekoin: Asking Favors from the Legendary Chivalrous Thief, Nezumi-kozo?!

Ekoin is a temple that was built in 1657 to mourn the victims of the great fire that struck during the Edo period. Thereafter, victims of natural disasters and man-made calamities, animals and others, are buried and offered to the deities at this temple. It is known for promoting Kanjin-zumo (fundraising tournaments in the Edo period) inside its precincts during the end of the 18th century, and is regarded as the origin of Ryogoku’s sumo. Furthermore, it is popular as the tomb of Nezumi-kozo (real name was Jirokichi) (*), a Robin Hood-like thief from the latter half of the Edo period.

*A chivalrous thief who stole only from samurai residences and gave away what he stole to the poor

Ekoin: Asking Favors from the Legendary Chivalrous Thief, Nezumi-kozo?!

2-8-10 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Edo-Tokyo Museum: Experience the Edo Period

The Edo-Tokyo Museum is a place where you can experience and learn about the history, culture and life of people in Tokyo during the Edo period (the whole museum will be closed until March 31, 2018 (Saturday) (tentative schedule) due to renovation works on the hall and other areas). Here, there are full-scale reproductions of the townscape during the Edo period, as well as displays of massive collections of ukiyo-e (woodblock prints), kimono and other items. The elaborate diorama reproducing the town based on the Edo town planning system, daimyo (feudal lord) residences, and the Edo Castle at the end of the Edo era is such a thrilling sight! It perfectly duplicates everything up to the details of the buildings and the expressions of the dolls.

Admission fee for the permanent exhibitions:
Adults: 600 JPY
College students: 480 JPY
Middle school/high school students and guests 65 years old and above: 300 JPY
Middle school students and younger guests: Free

Edo-Tokyo Museum: Experience the Edo Period

1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Former Yasuda Garden: Feel the Four Seasons

Former Yasuda Garden is a garden that was built in 1688 – 1703. It used to be designed as a kaiyu-shiki teien (circuit-style garden) (*2) with a shioiri (tidal pond) (*1) that drew water from Sumida River, but today, there is a water tank underground and the shioiri pond is reproduced through artificial tides. It is also famous for as a spot for viewing momiji (autumn foliage).

(*1) A style of pond wherein water is drawn from a river and guests view the changes in the scenery with the tides
(*2) A style of garden that is appreciated by going around it

Former Yasuda Garden: Feel the Four Seasons

1-12-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Relish Dishes Named After Sumo and Edo Food Culture

Ryogoku-Edo NOREN

Directly linked to JR Ryogoku Station, Ryogoku-Edo NOREN is a complex commercial facility that was designed under the concept of “enjoying authentic Edo-style cuisine”. It houses 12 washoku (Japanese-style dishes) shops in an atrium that resembles a machiya (traditional tradesman’s house) from the Edo period. Here, you can dine at a sushi joint that serves Edo-style sushi and drink at a liquor shop that has a collection of Japanese sake from breweries in Tokyo, as well as have your fill of Edo-style dishes, such as soba (buckwheat noodles) and monjayaki (savory pancake with various fillings).

Ryogoku-Edo NOREN

1-3-20 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Try the Chankonabe

There is also a specialty shop for this inside Ryogoku-Edo NOREN, but if you happen to visit the Ryogoku area, then you must try the sumo world’s representative dish: the chankonabe. A dish consisting of chunks of fish, seasonal meats and vegetables that are cooked in a pot of boiling water, chankonabe is made by junior-grade wrestlers in the sumo stables, and is traditionally eaten with everybody surrounding the pot.

Be sure to add the charming Ryogoku area into your sightseeing itinerary for Tokyo!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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