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I'm planning to buy tickets for a sumo match in Nagoya in July. As A tall European guy who never visited a sumo match before I'm struggling to decide which tickets to buy.

To really experience sumo do I need to purchase more expensive box-seat tickets or are arena tickets fine (considering the view, venue etc)?

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3 Answers 3

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There is a website which shows you in sample pictures how your view looks like depending on the seat you chose during this event.

Some general points:

  • The tournament lasts the whole day, from early morning. It's great to see how the younger fighters and their fighting style differs from the older, professionals.

  • The matches themselves are over in mere seconds. there is not too much that happens between the matches. Specially not if you are there the whole day, and see the activities between the games dozens of times

  • To sit on the floor for the whole day can be quite tiring for the legs. You will be more comfortable to sit on chairs on the borders instead of sitting on the floor closer to the center. If you plan to go there for the whole day and get some binoculars, you might be good even on the cheapest seats.

Now my personal experience while watching sumo:

Watching sumo is something very special and you will not really understand the sport or grasp the mechanics of it from far away. Why?

  • Some of the movements are very fast and you will struggle to see what happened if you are too far away.

  • When the fighters are stuck together, it's important to see their faces better to understand how they are holding up, who is about to give in, or who tries to get a better grip of the opponent. details you cannot see from far away.

  • There is also a huge psychological warfare going on during and specially the seconds before the fight. To be up close and see how some fighter feign weaknesses or overplay their strength is very interesting.

It's finally a contact sport. Up-close and personal. And if you are not sitting on a TV, you will not have replays. You will have to see it when it happens, as it happens. And if you are too far away, you will not really see what's going on, and there is a huge risk that it will be boring.

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I've been to every major sumo tournament at least once (most more than once), and sat in both boxes and seats in Nagoya (as well as other tournaments). While the answers here are good, there are some quirks that more casual fans may not know or appreciate.

Daily Schedule

Matches start early in the morning (8:30am) from the lowest ranked wrestlers. The main broadcast is from 4pm-6pm, and that is the main event with the highest ranked wrestlers. After the final bout there is a lower-ranked wrestler who spins a bow around, and a Japanese drum plays everyone out of the venue. Most people who watch live in the good seats arrive around 2-3pm to catch the two highest divisions. Hardcore fans will show up in the AM. Since you can eat in the venue (you can bring food, and they sell it there) I usually show up with a lunch around noon.

It is perfectly okay to sit in the best seats open until around 2-3pm as long as nobody is in them. Even if you get the cheapest ticket available, you can watch several hours of sumo from the best seats in the house for absolutely no additional charge. If you don't care about seeing the top ranked guys up close, then buying the cheapest seats will still get you to see a lot of sumo.

Additionally, the earlier matches are much quicker. There is a match every 3 minutes or so for the bottom 4 divisions, which becomes about 4 minutes for the second ranked division, and 6 minutes each for the main event. The lower ranked matches also tend to have a lot more crazy results as the people are younger, less practiced, and far more athletic (you may see wrestling throws, flips, and other crazy stuff that doesn't work in the top division). Depending on what part of sumo interests you, you can decide which part of the day is best to see, and base your ticket choice on that.

Seat Prices

The prices of seats are very different depending on where you sit. If you look at the official site for a tournament the prices don't show everything. For instance, the best seats are shown as 桝A席 (Masu A Seki) for boxes, but what they don't show is that the boxes from Row 7 and up are the only ones available through the site. The better boxes are bought by companies which sell tickets including souvenirs for a huge markup that can be 1.5 to 2 times the price listed on the site.

If you want the best seats in the house, expect to pay 20,000-30,000/person. For normally available boxes through the net (the link above) expect to pay 12,000 JPY/person for a box seat. If you want the cheapest reserved seats, expect to pay 3,000 JPY/person for a back row seat.

Seat Availability

The Nagoya tournament this year will be from July 13th (Sun) to July 27th (Sun). The 3rd Monday (July 21st) is a national holiday, so the middle weekend is a 3-day weekend. The highest ranked wrestlers in the highest division face off against each other the last days of the tournament, so the last weekend (especially the last day) is most popular. In Nagoya, on the last day, the fans descend on the ring in the center and disassemble it (they bring pickaxes and the like, and really take it apart to bring home souvenirs). This is purely a Nagoya thing.

Here is the popularity by day:

  • Top: 15 (Sun), 14 (Sat)
  • High: 1 (Sun), 8 (Sun), 7 (Sat), 9 (Mon)
  • Low: Weekdays (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13)

There are 4 sides to the arena, 正 (Front), 裏 (Back), 西 (West), and 東 (East). The best seats are 正 (Front) because they mirror the angle on TV and you get the clearest view of the action. If you get a seat in 裏 (Back) then the judge who stands between the two wrestlers will block your view of the action at the very start. If you pick 西 or 東 (East or West) you are looking at the back of one of the wrestlers who is even bigger than the judge. Try to get a seat in the front section if you can. The same-day tickets are 自由席 (no assigned seating), so this only applies if you are reserving seats ahead of time.

If you want to reserve a good seat on a top/high day, you need to call the instant tickets are available (they sell out within about 10 minutes -- to get them you have to use the net and call on at least two phones and pray you get through). Tickets usually go on sale on a Sunday from 9am (JST) about 6 weeks before the tournament starts (note: the reservations will all be done in Japanese). The day they go on sale is announced on the website. If you just want cheap seats on a weekday, you can probably show up the day of and purchase them at the door (2,000 JPY/person).

Going Alone/With Others

If you are going there alone, boxes are awful. They are cramped and you get stuck with people you don't know. I highly recommend a seat, or, for the daring, trying to reserve a 溜席 (Tamari Seki) which are the cushions on the floor surrounding the ring. You aren't allowed to eat or drink in those seats, but you get a great view, and they cost similarly to the boxes (depending on the row, you may be asked to wear something over your clothes so as to not distract the wrestlers -- the brown thing in this photo).

If you are good with people and generally friendly, then you may have luck getting a seat in the back, sitting up front early, and being invited to sit with folks in boxes who have a spare seat by merit of being foreign. This is not a high-probability event in Nagoya compared to Osaka, Fukuoka, or Tokyo, but you can give it a shot.

If you go with someone else, there are pair seats available at some tournaments, but are likely very popular and will sell out quickly (they tend to be very few). Some tournaments (Osaka comes to mind, Fukuoka too I believe) have a few single-person box seats but those are super popular and usually sell out incredibly quickly as well.

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The answer of uncovery is really good.

Here is my experience. We (we were four my wife, my two children and me) went 2 times to Nagoya Sumo basho.
First time on chairs on the west side
Second time in a box (there was an offer for families) right in front !

The second time was really better : closer, very good point of view, beeing able to see fighter face expressions.
I must say that without 2 adults and 2 children the box is a little bit small and not very confortable for my legs and for my back.
I was able to put a bag behind me to use the strucure of the box behind me to make it more confortable.
Remember that Nagoya in July is pretty hot.

So for sumo fans like us the box was really better !

Are you alone ? Or is it for 1-23 or 4 people ?

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I agree a box is better and in my opinion adds to the overall experience. If you're tall I'd recommend a box per 2 persons. –  TomDoes Mar 1 at 16:04
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