Arts + Culture

The Checklist: Sporting Events

by Josh Dean

GRAND SUMO TOURNAMENTS

Where: Tokyo, Japan

Play along: Just when you think you might be getting the hang of Tokyo—dealing with the huge but polite crowds, pointing out the food you'd like to order, figuring out those buttons on the toilets—get yourself to a sumo match, and you'll find yourself wonderfully lost in translation yet again. Part of the beauty of watching a sumo tournament live is the feeling that you've stepped into an alternate world. Monolithic men wearing silk loincloths take giant, awkward steps around a circle in a sort of hippopotamus ballet. The wrestlers—called rikishis—push, slap, and jostle one another out of a clay- and sand-covered circle outlined with hay bales. Gongs are used instead of whistles, and the referee is costumed like a fragile porcelain doll. Sumo wrestling dates back some 1,500 years and has religious origins springing from Shinto rituals intended to bring about a bountiful harvest. Nowadays, a bountiful harvest is required to feed the rikishis, who have no weight limits—and may not pull hair, gouge eyes, choke, or kick opponents in the stomach. It's much more civilized than WWE; just sit back, smile, and pretend you understand the rules.

How to score tickets: Click here for an excellent step-by-step guide to buying tickets online. Unfortunately, once you pick out your desired date and type of ticket (from $31), a Japanese speaker will need to call to book. (Have your hotel concierge help).

When: Matches are held year-round, but the most important are the Grand Tournaments, three of which are held in Tokyo during January, May, and September.

For more information: www.sumo.or.jp

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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