On March 18, my visiting friend Scott and I woke up early in the morning on a mini trip in Osaka, and walked the 20 minutes to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, stood in a long line in what was still the tail end of the winter’s morning cold, and kept our (mostly mine probably) fingers crossed that we would get tickets to the day’s sumo matches. As they counted people off time after time, and we saw the man holding the sign finally stop moving backwards with every new person, I was ecstatic when they handed us our vouchers stating we were going to be guaranteed a ticket.
I had tried to buy tickets in advance, initially for my family to see when they would be in Japan but tickets quickly sold out and the methods from which to buy what was left were primarily in Japanese that google chrome just wasn’t sufficient in translating. I had sort of given up hope of it happening, also unfamiliar with the process of buying same day tickets, which is always a gamble the first time because you never know just how early you’ll need to go to get one.
We arrived at around 7:20 which fortunately seemed to be early enough for the Friday tournament going-hopefuls. However, a friend of mine arrived around 7am on Saturday and was unfortunately not so lucky.
We got back at around 4 and though had a hard time figuring out exactly where to sit (we accidently sat in some open seats in the assigned seating portion, which lasted for a good while until the rightful ticket holders came. Fortunately they were Japanese and were apologizing to us for making us move! The politeness of the Japanese never ceases to enthuse me.) We relocated to the appropriate area, which was not too far off from where we thought we were supposed to be. Of course, it was pretty difficult to really know what was going on. The programs were in Japanese, as of course were the names. I never knew which match we were witnessing, or how (un)important it was. It was clear when things were getting started and when the match began and ended, but as for the details I couldn’t tell you who was who or what was what.
In spite of being a complete sumo noob, I really enjoyed watching it! It was amazing to me to be sitting in the gymnasium of a sumo match, something I’d only seen on TV or in movies. Watching the wrestlers prepare for their match took two to three times as long as the match itself; like many things in Japan there’s so much ceremony that takes place around the event it almost makes the event itself anticlimatic. It probably doesn’t help that the matches themselves only last about a minute.
In the crowd were people of all kinds- families, young friends, dates, salarymen, elderly couples. It seemed to draw just about everyone. People sat in western style stadium seats as well as small marked off squares on tiered floors Japanese style. It seemed to be no problem bringing in obento and drinks from outside (though I’m fairly certain there were a lot of signs saying otherwise).
This was a big item on my bucket list, and I’m really exctied to check it off. It was absolutely worth the experience to go. The tickets cost about 2000 yen and even though we only stayed for about an hour it was worth every penny. You just can’t put a price the experience of it!