Explaining how to enjoy watching sumo and etiquette! Let’s support each other and respect our manners

Sumo, Japan’s national sport, is popular among people overseas as it is easy to tell who wins or loses. Sumo has different cheering methods and etiquette than other sports, so when watching sumo, you need to know how to enjoy it and the rules.

In this article, we will explain how to enjoy watching sumo and the etiquette, so be sure to experience it when you come to Japan.

■What is the appeal of watching sumo?

Watching sumo is packed with elements of Japanese traditional culture and sports, and is one of the tourist attractions you should definitely experience when visiting Japan.

The rules of sumo are relatively easy to understand, so it is popular among people overseas as a sport that anyone can easily enjoy.


You can experience Japanese traditional culture

Sumo has a history of over 1500 years and is known as Japan’s national sport. It is said that it was originally held as a Shinto ritual or festival, and took on its current form during the Edo period (1603-1867).

Sumo wrestling is popular among people from overseas who want to experience Japanese culture and atmosphere, as people fight while wearing hairstyles called mage and mawashi, similar to those worn by Japanese people in the past. In addition, the behavior and etiquette of sumo when it was held as a Shinto ritual have been passed down to the present day. Be sure to pay attention to the sumo wrestlers’ behavior.


Rules are easy to understand

Sumo has simple rules for winning and losing. You lose if you touch the ring with anything other than the sole of your foot inside the ring, or if you step out of the ring, so even beginners and foreign tourists can easily understand this.

Once you get used to it, it is recommended that you learn the detailed rules other than the basic winning and losing rules and techniques called “decisions.” If you know what techniques are used to win, you’ll enjoy watching sumo even more.


There is no classification based on body size

Unlike other martial arts, sumo does not have a classification based on body size. As a result, you can enjoy powerful scenes such as a small sumo wrestler throwing a large sumo wrestler away.

Additionally, since matches are decided based on performance, regardless of rank, an upset may occur in which a lower-ranked wrestler defeats the highest-ranked wrestler, such as a yokozuna. Upsets are the most exciting part of watching sumo, and are a great source of excitement for both wrestlers and spectators.

■Etiquette for watching sumo

In order to enjoy watching sumo, you need to follow the rules and etiquette. Be sure to check the rules for each seat, eating, drinking, and cheering in advance.

Also, be sure to observe manners while watching the match so as not to disturb other spectators or wrestlers.


No food or alcohol is allowed to be brought in.

Basically, eating and drinking is not prohibited while watching sumo. However, bringing in food and alcohol is prohibited. You can only eat and drink food purchased from the shops inside the venue, so it is a good idea to purchase it before watching the sumo match.

In addition, eating and drinking are prohibited in the seats near the ring called tamari-seki, regardless of whether they are brought in or purchased. In addition, the use of cameras and cell phones is prohibited in Tamaseki.

Tame seats are close to the ring and can be dangerous, so the rules are stricter than other spectator seats. Be sure to carefully check the rules for each seat and follow them for your own safety.


Do not move seats during the match

Please do not move your seat once the match has started. Most sumo matches are decided in an instant, so if you leave your seat during the match, other spectators may miss the moment of the match.

In addition, it can also affect match performance by distracting the wrestlers. Please use the restroom before watching the game.

Also, do not change the location of the cushions or bring in a chair to use. If you have difficulty sitting on a cushion (masu seat), please reserve a wheelchair seat, chair seat, or box seat in advance. (Reservations for wheelchair seats are only accepted by phone.)


Throwing cushions is prohibited due to the risk of injury.

In sumo matches, you can often see zabuton throwing. Zabuton throwing is said to have meanings such as celebrating a victory, jeering at a yokozuna, or indicating that there has been an uproar in a match, and it is a sight that is often seen especially when a “big upset” occurs.

However, zabuton throwing is prohibited as it can lead to injuries and accidents to wrestlers, spectators, and staff. There are cushions spread out at masuseki seats, but please be careful not to throw them. It is also prohibited to take cushions home.


Avoid excessive support

Please make sure that your cheering does not disturb other spectators. The use of banners and loudspeakers (trumpets, drums, etc.) is prohibited.

Acts that interfere with the safe progress and operation of the game, acts that interfere with other people’s viewing of the game, and the use of cheering goods are also prohibited.

Shouting the same wrestler’s name over and over again or clapping your hands is not allowed as it will annoy other people. It’s easy to get nervous when the match starts, but please refrain from standing up or shaking your body side to side.

Once the match starts, watch quietly and enjoy the tension and power of the match.


Do not touch the wrestlers before the match.

The wrestlers are concentrating before the match, so please do not call out to them, touch them, or ask them for autographs. In particular, touching the wrestler’s body may result in injury, so please do not touch the wrestler’s body without permission.

If you really want to talk to the wrestlers, please do so after the match as they are returning home. However, please be careful not to look at the wrestlers and force them to ask for autographs or shake hands.


Dress is optional, but please be considerate of other spectators.

There are no particular rules about what to wear when watching sumo. However, large-brimmed hats and hair accessories may obstruct other people’s viewing experience, so please avoid them or remove them.

Also, since you will be taking off your shoes and sitting on the ground, please avoid short skirts, tight clothing, and footwear that is difficult to put on and take off. The venue is air-conditioned and heated, so bring a fan or a coat to help regulate your body temperature.

There are no lockers to store your luggage, so please keep your baggage as small as possible.

■How to enjoy and support sumo matches

Please be sure to follow the rules and etiquette when watching sumo. Cheering methods are different from other sports, such as “keeping quiet during the game,” but it’s not difficult etiquette.

In addition to the matches, checking out the shops and exhibits is another way to enjoy watching sumo.


Find a wrestler you want to support

If you’re going to go to the trouble of watching sumo, you’ll enjoy it more if you find a wrestler you want to support. If you purchase a bansuke table in advance, you will be even more excited when an “upset” occurs.

We also recommend bringing goods such as towels of your favorite sumo wrestler to support them. Before your favorite match, take a walk around the facility and collect goods and information about your favorite wrestler.

When cheering, please be polite and avoid disturbing other spectators. Especially during the match, watch quietly and enjoy the power of the wrestlers colliding with each other.

Banzukemyo will be accepted from the online shop “Banzuke” one month before the release date. Please purchase it in advance.


Watch the game up close from Tamari Seki

Tamariseki is the closest to the sumo ring, where you can hear the wrestlers’ breathing and the sounds of their collisions. This is a popular seat for those who want to concentrate on watching the game and those who want to experience a more realistic experience.

Eating, drinking, and using cell phones and cameras are prohibited, so if you want to watch the sumo match or take photos while eating and drinking, please choose another seat.

Additionally, only those 16 years of age or older can use Tame seats. Please note that there are rare cases of wrestlers falling into the tame seats, so children and people with physical disabilities who are unable to react immediately in the event of danger cannot use this facility.


Check out the shops and exhibits in between watching sumo matches

There are shops and exhibits at the sumo venue. The store may be closed by the time all sumo matches are over, so be sure to check before watching or between matches.

In addition, various events are held at the venue. The content of the event varies depending on the venue, so you can enjoy watching sumo wherever you are.

■Summary of how to enjoy watching sumo and etiquette

Sumo is a sport that is popular among people overseas and allows you to experience Japanese tradition. The rules of sumo are simple and easy to understand, so even those watching sumo for the first time can enjoy it.

Please note that unlike soccer or baseball, cheering using banners or anything that makes noise is prohibited when watching sumo. Please follow proper etiquette and enjoy watching sumo.

Q.Can I eat and drink while watching sumo?

A. Yes, you can.

However, bringing in items from outside is prohibited, so items must only be purchased within the venue. Also, please note that eating and drinking is prohibited in the Tame seats.

Q.Can I take photos while watching sumo?

A. Photography is permitted as long as it is not for commercial purposes.

Please take photos from your seat so as not to disturb other spectators. Please do not use flash when taking pictures.

Also, please note that the use of cell phones, cameras, and video cameras is prohibited in Tamaseki.