History of Ryogoku Kokugikan (Ryogoku Sumo Hall)
Inside Ryogoku Kokugikan ① Sumo Information Center (1F)
Inside Ryogoku Kokugikan ② Sumo Museum (1F)
How to buy Tickets
Ways to Enhance your Experience
Event
Access
Nearby

Sumo wrestling, one of Japan's most esteemed cultural sports, is one with a rich history that some theories trace back to myths written in historical documents from the year 712. The rules of sumo wrestling have hardly changed since the Edo Period (1603 - 1868), and the sport has long been loved as a traditional culture of Japan. Despite how famous the sport is around the world, not many people get the opportunity of seeing sumo wrestling up close!
Sumo wrestling tournaments are televised, but the powerful energy of the wrestlers clashing is something that must be experienced in person. Ryogoku Kokugikan (Ryogoku Sumo Hall) is the place to do this; this structure is considered Japan's holy center of sumo wrestling, and can accommodate over 11,000 people in its seats! This article will introduce the history and highlights of Ryogoku Kokugikan, the sumo hall that has overlooked the sport's most historical matches.

History of Ryogoku Kokugikan (Ryogoku Sumo Hall)

The beginnings of Ryogoku Kokugikan


Sumo wrestling mural at Ryogoku Kokugikan (Pixta)

Built in 1985, the Ryogoku Kokugikan is relatively new compared to other cultural sites in Japan. However, the building has a rich history that dates back nearly a century. Ryogoku Kokugikan was originally built in 1909, on the grounds of Eko-in Temple, located in Ryogoku.
At the entrance ceremony, writer and sumo enthusiast Emi Sui-in said in his speech, “Sumo wrestling is Japan’s kokugi (national sport)”, which inspired the stadium’s name, Kokugikan (kan meaning stadium or hall). Although Ryogoku Kokugikan later burned down during the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, the steel dome structure remained in tact, and the stadium was quickly rebuilt.

Ryogoku Kokugikan during World War II

After a few decades of success, the Tokyo Air Raids of World War II burned down the Ryogoku Kokugikan. During the following American occupation of Japan, the GHQ banned many of Japan's traditional martial arts such as judo and kendo. They were considered "practice of combat techniques", but sumo on the other hand, continued to be permitted.
The occupying forces then seized Kokugikan, leaving no official sumo stadium in Tokyo.
Fortunately, in 1949, the construction of a new Kokugikan in the Kuramae area (across the Sumida River from Ryogoku) began. During the construction, the original Kokugikan in Ryogoku was given back to Japan, but ended up serving as a separate multi-purpose facility. Kuramae Kokugikan was completed in 1954, and was used for the following few decades.

Ryogoku: Japan's Center of Sumo Wrestling


Sumo wrestler statues near the stadium

In 1977, the chairman of the Japan Sumo Association Kasugano Kiyotaka spoke with Japan Railways (JR), since he was eyeing a marshaling yard near Ryogoku Station as the potential grounds for a new Kokugikan. As JR was struggling economically, they were happy at the news of selling the land, and gladly handed over the area to Kasugano. Construction of the Ryogoku Kokugikan kicked off, and was complete in 1985. Kokugikan had made a very much welcomed return back to Ryogoku, and has served as the heart and home of sumo wrestling since then.

Inside Ryogoku Kokugikan ① Sumo Information Center (1F)

The Sumo Annai-Jo, or Sumo Information Center, is the 20 shops located on the first floor of Ryogoku Kokugikan. Commonly referred to as sumo-jaya in Japanese, these shops serve to guide customers and sell tickets and foods. The tickets available at the Sumo Information Center are the masu-seki, or special box seats, and are priced at around ¥38,000.
Obtaining tickets through the Sumo Information Center will give you a VIP experience, with special guides, called dekata, escorting you to your seat via the shop’s passage to the stadium. The dekata will also take your food orders during the sumo bouts, so you won’t miss a single moment of action. You can also purchase souvenirs at these shops.

Inside Ryogoku Kokugikan ② Sumo Museum (1F)

The Sumo Museum, also located on the first floor of Ryogoku Kokugikan, is open even when the stadium itself is not. For those who do not have the time for a full day of sumo viewing, this museum may be a good option. This museum offers a display of props and items used in real sumo wrestling tournaments by real sumo wrestlers, such as the mawashi (the thick rope around their abdomen) and the gunbai (the fan-like object in the referee’s hands).
You can also purchase a pamphlet in English for ¥100. The Sumo Museum is free of charge, but during sumo tournaments only those with tournament tickets are allowed inside.
The museum is open from 10:00AM to 4:30PM, and is closed on weekends and national holidays.

How to buy Tickets at Ryogoku Kokugikan

Tickets for the Tokyo Tournament (Tokyo Basho 東京場所) can be purchased online (recommended for non-Japanese speakers), by phone call, at a ticket office or at a convenience store.

Ticket vendors:

You can order tickets online from any of these websites, phone numbers, ticket offices or convenience stores

Ticket Sumo
・Official English website for sumo tickets
・Tel: 0570-02-9310

Ticket Sumo
・Official website of the Sumo Information Center (Sumo Annai Jo).
・Service in Japanese only.
・Only masu-seki (special box seats) are sold.
・Tel: 03-3622-3300

Ticket Sumo
・Official ticket vendor website (PC and smartphone-friendly).
・Service in Japanese only.

Ticket Pia
・Official ticket vendor website.
・Service in Japanese only.
・Tel: 0570-02-9999

Ticket Sumo
・Official ticket vendor website.
・Service in Japanese only.
・Tickets purchased online can be picked up at any Lawson convenience store.
・Tel: 0570-084-003

Kokugikan Ticket Box
・You can buy tickets on the day of the event at the Kokugikan Ticket Box.
・Service in Japanese only.
・Located outside of the main entrance
・Open 7:45 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.

Ways to Enhance your Experience

English Radio Commentary

You can have a live English commentary to supplement your sumo bout! NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) has a sumo commentary radio broadcast for each of the Makuuchi (highest tier) bouts. Radio rentals are available for ¥3200 (¥3000 of which is a refundable deposit) at the Information Desk on the first floor. Rentals begin at 14:30, and from 13:00 on the final day of the tournament.

"Grand Sumo Official App"

Before watching the sumo tournaments, you can download this app to brush up on your sumo knowledge. The Grand Sumo app, is an app available in both Japanese and English, and provides profiles of makuuchi sumo wrestlers and videos from the ongoing tournament. This free app is a great way to familiarize yourself with sumo wrestling.

Events

Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournaments - 東京場所 (Year-round)


Tokyo Basho Tournament

There are six grand sumo tournaments held annually, and three are held at Kokugikan. The tournaments held in Tokyo (called Tokyo Basho; 東京場所) are held in January, May and September, with each tournament lasting for about two weeks. Tickets are available approximately a month in advance, but you can also buy them at the stadium on the day of. You can purchase tickets online at sumo.pia.jp/en/.

*This is the only official online vendor for sumo tickets!!

Other events

The Ryogoku Kokugikan is designated as a sumo-wrestling stadium, but other events are held throughout the year as well. Concerts, WWE events, wrestling tournaments and talk shows are just a handful of the events here. You can check the official website for a schedule of all of the events at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Access

Nearest station:
・Ryogoku Station (JR Chuo-Sobu Line JB21, Toei Oedo Line E12)

From Shinjuku Station 新宿駅

【Shinjuku Sta.】JR Chuo-Sobu Line / for Tsudanuma
→【Ryogoku Sta.】from the West Exit → about 2-minute walk

From Tokyo Station

【Tokyo Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Shinjuku
→【Yoyogi Sta.】Chuo Sobu Line Local Service / for Tsudanuma
→【Ryogoku Sta.】from the West Exit → about a 2-minute walk

From Narita Airport

【Narita Airport Sta.】Skyliner / for Keisei Ueno
→【Nippori Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Ueno
→【Akihabara Sta.】JR Chuo-Sobu Line Local Service / for Chiba
→【Ryogoku Sta.】from the West Exit → about a 2-minute walk

From Haneda Airport

【Haneda Airport Sta.】Tokyo Monorail Airport Express Line / for Hamamatsucho
→【Hamamatsucho Sta.】JR Keihin Tohoku Rapid Line / for Omiya
→【Akihabara Sta.】JR Chuo-Sobu Line Local Service / for Chiba
→【Ryogoku Sta.】from the West Exit → about a 2-minute walk

Information

Address
1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Phone
03-3623-5111
Hours
Varies by event
Fee
Varies by event/seat
Credit Card
Credit cards accepted on first floor and second floor kiosks.
(not accepted at nishiki-e shop, Hiyonoyama shop, official goods shop and bookstore.)

Nearby Destinations