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How To Watch A Sumo Morning Training Session

Missed the sumo tournament? Don’t worry, there’s an even better way to experience sumo (and it’s free).

By 6 min read

Seeing sumo in action is one of the best cultural experiences you can have in Japan and watching a sumo tournament should definitely be on your list.

But there’s a way to experience this centuries’ old sport up close and personal — as in twenty feet away personal – by visiting a sumo stable and watching the morning training session, known as asageiko.

More and more stables or “beya” are allowing tourists to watch the wrestlers in training and setting up a visit is much easier than you might think. Many travel websites say that for entry into the privileged world of asageiko you need to be accompanied by a Japanese person and so the best way to see a training session is through a guided tour. Usually, these are pretty expensive with tour companies charging around ¥10,000 or more per person.

However, with a bit of preparation and by learning the rules, you can easily arrange your own visit to a stable and watch the action entirely for free.

Step One: Find a sumo stable or shukusha

There are 46 official sumo stables in Japan, the majority of which are located in Tokyo and the Kanto region. However, during a tournament, it is still possible to see a training session in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka.

Of the six sumo tournaments held each year, three take place in Tokyo (January, May, and September), one is held in Osaka (March), one in Nagoya (July) and one in Fukuoka (November). If you’re in one of the latter three cities around the 15 days of the tournament, there’s a chance that you can catch a traveling sumo stable while you’re there. For Tokyo, it’s possible to watch a session year-round.

Tokyo

Most stables in Tokyo are located in the neighborhood of Ryogoku, a historic district sandwiched between the former Tsukiji Market to the south and Tokyo Skytree to the north. The district is the home of Japan’s national sport and it’s at the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo stadium where you can watch the Tokyo sumo tournament.

Sumo stables are often housed inside fairly non-descript apartment buildings with the training ground on the bottom floor and the wrestlers’ lodgings above. The Japan Sumo Association website has a list of sumo stables, and you can then search for the relative contact information online (most stables have Japanese websites). Your accommodation should also be able to help.

The following stables are accustomed to foreign tourists:

Musashigawa Beya 
4-1-10 Chuo, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo - Map
Tel: 03 5879 9268
Need to call to reserve.
Arashio Beya 
2--47-2 Nihonbashihama-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo - Map
Tel: 03 3623 5111
Tourists are only allowed outside where they can watch from the window. If you just want to have a quick look and take a few selfies this could be a good option.
Asakayama Beya
4-21-1 Midori, Sumida-ku, Tokyo - Map
Tel: 090 1505 1421
Call one day in advance to reserve the date you wish to visit. 
Azumazeki Beya 
2-10-13 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo - Map
Tel: 03 5876 5713
Call before and come with someone who can speak Japanese. You can watch from 8 a.m. onwards.

Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka

When sumo wrestlers travel to other cities for a tournament they’ll stay at a dormitory, or shukusha, which will have a space reserved for training. Some beya allow tourists to watch a morning training session while their wrestlers are at a shukusha, depending on availability. Your best bet is to try in the three weeks before the first day of the sumo tournament. You can check the tournament schedule here.

The following stables will accept foreign tourists at their temporary shukusha:

Ootake Beya Shukusha

Osaka: 5-1-4 Oowada, Nishiyodogawa-ku, Osaka - Map
Nagoya: 139 Shimokoshihiga, Heiwa-cho, Inazawa-shi, Aichi - Map
Tel: 03 3820 8340
Don't need to book but should call the Tokyo stable in advance via the number above to check a session is happening.

Minato Beya Shukusha

Osaka: At Settu Warehouse, 1-3-13 Minamishinden, Daito, Osaka - Map
Nagoya: At Jyokan Temple,  114 Hachiryu, Koori-cho, Konan, Aichi - Map
Fill out the contact form to reserve: https://www.minato-beya.com/inquiry
You need to bring a Japanese speaker.

Shikoroyama Beya Shukusha 

Nara: In Daiwa Gas Co., Ltd., 8-36 Asahiminami-cho, Yamatotakada, Nara - Map
Nagoya: Midori Dormitory, Aichi Tokei Denki Corporation, 1-39-1 Shikayama, Midori-ku, Nagoya, Aichi - Map
Tel: 03 5620 2372
Call the Tokyo stable via the number above to check they are having a training session.

Nishiiwa Beya Shukusha

Osaka: 1-5-20 Chikko, Osaka Minato-ku, Osaka - Map
Nagoya: 53-1 Yamashinden, Kutsukakecho, Toyoake, Aichi - Map
Fukuoka: 1-1-1 Shime, Shimecho, Kasuyagun Shimemachi, Fukuoka - Map
Enquire via the contact form on their website.

Step Two: Call ahead

It’s absolutely essential to call the stable before, not only to let them know that you’re coming (and check that’s ok) but also to make sure that they’re holding a practice that day. Training is not normally held on a weekend and wrestlers usually have time off for the week immediately after a tournament. Apart from these times, you’ve got a pretty good chance of catching a morning training session throughout the year. It’s even possible to visit during tournaments though the training will be more relaxed as wrestlers don’t want to get injured.

You can use this easy sample script of what to say when you call a stable or you can ask a Japanese speaker to help you. Generally, it’s best to call the day before (it’s not possible to make reservations far in advance) to see if there’ll be a practice and to tell them how many people are coming.

sumo-training-2


Step Three: Get up at the crack of dawn

Foreshadowing events to come, you’ll have to wake up at the crack of dawn to see a sumo training session. The time training starts will vary from stable to stable, often beginning around 6-7 a.m. and lasting approximately three hours. It’s respectful to arrive towards the beginning of practice and stay for the whole time, which does mean you’ll need to leave your accommodation with enough time to find the stable and settle in, as well as be prepared to sit there for the entire training without needing to pee or hallucinating because you didn’t have your morning coffee (…just me?)

Step Four: Follow the appropriate etiquette

Sumo wrestlers train, eat and sleep together in the stable so essentially you are entering into their home and the way you behave should reflect that. Sumo stables are not a tourist attraction and shouldn’t be treated like one so put away your selfie stick, pocket phrasebook and any inclination towards smiling or happiness as this is serious business.

When visiting a morning training session, you should:

  • Bow to the stable master or other senior who’s leading the practice when you enter and leave the stable, as well as to the wrestlers.
  • Keep silent. Wrestlers don’t generally talk to each other and the stable master will also keep his directions to a minimum. It’s distracting and disrespectful to even whisper while watching a training session.
  • Sit at the back of the room on a cushion (zabuton) that should be offered to you when you enter. You don’t have to sit on your knees in the traditional style – cross-legged or with your legs to the side is fine – but you shouldn’t point the soles of your feet towards the dohyo (sacred ring where wrestlers fight) if possible.
  • Absolutely no eating or drinking, and definitely no smoking. Some stable masters and trainers might smoke during a session – if you’re not a fan you just have to deal with it (rather than asking them to put it out as one US couple did).
  • Some kind of gift to leave as a token of your appreciation also goes a long way too – anything edible and nicely packaged is ideal.
  • If there’s no way to silence the shutter on your camera then you should refrain from taking photos until the end of practice. Even with your phone, try not to get too snap happy as this can be distracting for wrestlers.

After practice, the atmosphere is more relaxed and some wrestlers will be happy to pose for a picture and chat to you if you speak a little Japanese. Even if the wrestlers aren’t so friendly, the experience is really special; actually seeing the rigorous training routine right there in front of you, you’ll get a glimpse into how wrestlers build their extreme strength and agility day after day. What’s really interesting too is watching how wrestlers personally interact with each other in a way that reflects the strict system of the hierarchy so central to the world of sumo.

It’s fascinating stuff, so don’t miss the chance to see sumo morning training when you’re in Japan!


Updated: Aug 30, 2019

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  • Thomas Schmitz says:

    Well, I just went to the Ootake stable, ringed at the door and asked, whether I could watch the keiko. It was fine and we were even served with Green Tea. I was able to enter the Kise stable and pose with the wrestlers inside the ring. You just have to try your luck.

  • Meche Guevara says:

    I would be very interested in having this experience. But, what kind of gift is appropriate to bring? Something for all, like a box of sweets? Or something else? I don’t want to sound disrespectful with the gift.

    • Rebecca Quin says:

      A box of sweets is great. Crackers or tea is also good. It’s more about the act of bringing the gift so don’t worry too much!

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