Early morning in Tokyo for an up-close SUMO Wrestling Training Session  | Tokyo, Japan | During my last trip to Tokyo, other than the traditional visit to the Tuskiji Fish Market, the SAKE Tastings, and Tea Ceremonies, one of the most interesting tours I took, was an early morning up-close real SUMO Wrestling Training Session. Expect lots of sweat, tears, screams and yes… some blood. It is indeed a very intense and up-close experience. You may see all my photos and videos from my recent trip to Japan at my Instagram @carlosmeliablog 

SUMO Wrestling morning training session at the Azumazeki Sumo Stables in the district of Ryogoku ( Sumo District of Tokyo ).

Sumo or sumo wrestling is a competitive full-contact wrestling sport where a rikishi attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring or into touching the ground with anything other than the soles of his feet.

As we entered the ring, we were formally briefed on the SUMO Stable Etiquette. SUMO wrestling is very important in Japanese culture, therefore outmost respect must be shown to SUMO Wrestlers.  (1). A sumo stable is not a facility for tourists. Sumo wrestlers are practicing very hard and seriously every day.  Please keep this in mind as a sign of respect to the wrestlers and stable masters. (2). Please watch the practice quietly and do not move around in the stable. (3). Please do not talk in the stable. Even your whispering voice may disturb the wrestlers. (4). Please don’t stand on the ring or on the sandy ground. The ring is the sacred place for the wrestlers. (5). Please take off your hat and sunglasses inside the stable. (6).  Inside the stable, you are not allowed to eat, drink, or smoke. This includes no chewing gum or candy. (7). You can take photos during the practice but you are not allowed to stand up or move around. No use flash. (8). Please do not sit with your legs stretched out. And most important if you leave the ring, you cannot renter.

Their morning begins early. First is the Warm Up and sort of charging exercises. This is only the beginning of a very hard and intense day ahead. Life as a wrestler is highly regimented, with rules regulated by the Japan Sumo Association.

The ring (dohyō) is ready and clear to start the official wrestling. The rikishi (wrestlers) take their turns under the severe and strict supervision of their coach.

Only 700 Sumos in Japan. The higher professional league represented by the Sekitori – only 10 percent and the top rank Yokozuna – only 4 of them where currently one is Japanese and three from Mongolia. Many ancient traditions have been preserved in sumo, and even today the sport includes many ritual elements, such as the use of salt purification.

The next two hours are spent over wrestling, which I have to say I found fascinating. It is a very raw experience. The temperature in the ring was rather hot, and get ready for intense wrestling, sweat flying around, coach screaming and hitting the fighters, tears and yes blood.

The total experience takes approximately 3 hours. An alternative or complementary experience could be to attend a SUMO Tournament. Unfortunately during my time in Tokyo there was none. The official sumo basho take place 6 times each year, beginning in January and then occurring every other month. 3 of the 6 sumo tournaments take place at the Kokugikan sumo arena in Tokyo’s old-fashioned Ryogoku neighborhood, with the other 3 held in Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka.

After the training, SUMO get their hair oiled and tied on the traditional chonmage topknot. And right after, of course, they eat to bulk up.  Sumo wrestlers eat their own special type of food. It’s called Chankonabe, a stew served in a giant pot. Most sumo wrestlers are required to live in communal sumo training stables, known in Japanese as heya, where all aspects of their daily lives—from meals to their manner of dress—are dictated by strict tradition. Hard training, tradition and strict discipline.

Special Thanks to Japan Airlines for being my official airline for this trip, flying Business Class non-stop from New York City to Tokyo. Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator – www.carlosmelia.com

(*) To book your own travel experience, do not hesitate to contact me either by email carlos@carlosmelia.com or phone # 917.754.5515. Bespoke Travel Agent with over 25 years of experience, member of VIRTUOSO, First in Service Travel, TZELL Travel Network. www.carlosmelia.com

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