A guide will come meet you at your hotel in the morning and then take you to the Ryogoku District by public transport - the centre of Japan’s sumo world. As well as the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium, Ryogoku is home to most of Tokyo’s sumo heyas. All rikishi (wrestlers) belong to heyas, or sumo stables, where they live, train and eat. We will be able to visit one of these heya to get up close and personal with these giant men and watch their asa geiko (morning training).
Life in the sumo heya is pretty tough - although it can be with its rewards, with Yokozuna (the ultimate grand champions) earning a basic salary of some US$17,000 per month. Their day begins in the very early morning, when the lowest ranked rikishi wake up and put in some practice before going about their assigned duties, which include cleaning the building and preparing the food for the main meal of the day. Higher ranked sekitori appear at a more reasonable hour, and they begin a practice session that runs from about 7am until about 10am. After several hours of warm up and technique practice, the wrestlers play a 'King of the Castle' type mini-tournament where one wrestler stays in the ring fighting bouts, without any rest, until he is defeated.
This is a morning tour and can only take place as and when the sumo are in town. They travel around the country to various basho (tournaments) and, consequently, it's not always possible to visit them in Ryogoku. It is imperative that we have plenty of notice to set this tour up.