The must-see annual sumo tournaments are held at the following locations, always starting on the Sunday closest to the tenth of the month and lasting for two weeks: Kokugikan Hall in Tokyo (Jan, May & Sept); Ōsaka Furitsu Taiiku Kaikan in Ōsaka (March); Aichi-ken Taiiku-kan in Nagoya (July); and the Fukuoka Kokusai Centre, Fukuoka (Nov).
Despite sumo’s declining popularity, it’s still difficult to book the prime ringside seats (around ¥45,000 for four seats in a tatami mat block) but quite feasible to bag reserved seats in the balconies (starting around ¥3200 for a Western-style seat). The cheapest unreserved seats (¥2800) go on sale on the door on the day of the tournament at 9am. To be assured of a ticket you’ll need to line up well before that, especially towards the end of a basho. Matches start at 10am for the lower-ranked wrestlers and at this time of day it’s OK to sneak into any vacant ringside seats to watch the action close up; when the rightful owners turn up, just return to your own seat. The sumo superstars come on around 4pm and tournaments finish at around 6pm.
Full details in English about ticket sales can be found on the sumo association’s website (wwww.sumo.or.jp). If you can’t get a ticket, note that NHK televises each basho daily from 3.30pm, and you can tune in to FEN on 810 KHz for a simultaneous English commentary.