Mountains of sumo colliding is a jaw dropping spectacle, but if you're one of the wrestlers, it's tough work. If you've ever wondered how these athletes manage to smash and bash and then get up and do it all over again the next day, then the only thing for it is to head off to one of the numerous sumo training halls and watch some practice.
Known as sumo beya, most of these stables are clustered around Ryogoku, the spiritual home of sumo in Tokyo. Taking in a practice session is an eye-opening lesson in discipline and custom. Dreams too, if you watch the wrestlers carefully.
A number of stables allow visitors the chance to watch practice, but bear in mind that practice times start around 6:00-7:00am and continue until around 10:00am. So if you are interested enough, get there early.
If your Japanese language and cultural skills are not quite there, then a guide is a good idea. Otherwise, give a particular stable a call (or have someone call for you) to find out if practice will be on. It is not uncommon for there to be no practice, for example due to injuries or the week after a major tournament when wrestlers are given some time off.
For those wanting just a glimpse, visit the Arashio Sumo Stable in Nihonbashi. Their stable has a large window opening out onto the street allowing people to stop and watch for as long as they want.
If you do enter a sumo stable, do make sure you follow some simple protocols. Silence is good as you sit on the cushion offered. Also, do keep your food and drink for later. Flash photography or shutter sounds should be turned off. Remember, the wrestlers are in serious practice mode.
Watching mountains learn to move is a very impressive experience. If you get the chance to go, then take it.
Arashio Sumo Stable is about a 2-minute walk from the A2 Exit of Hamacho station on the Toei Subway Shinjuku line.
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