Sumo at a Local Beya

There are only certain months of the year where sumo wrestling tournaments take place in Japan.  We did not visit during one of those months.   So we watched a 2-hour sumo wrestling practice one morning at a beya (or stable).  I can’t say I knew much about sumo prior, but it was fascinating to observe them work out.  Hands-down our top highlight from Tokyo (outside of seeing friends).   

Here are some interesting facts we learned about sumo:   

  • There is NO weight class differentiation in sumo (which is why gaining weight is often an advantage in the sport)
  • Sumo wrestlers generally die 10 years younger than the average male
  • Apparently Mongolians and Hawaiians make great sumo wrestlers
  • Wrestlers must wear traditional Japanese clothing (all the time)
  • Sumo wrestlers are forbidden from driving by the National Sumo organization.
  • The best sumo wrestlers can make $5 million USD / year.  The lowest ranking sumo make nothing according to our guide. 
  • Strong knees are REALLY important.  If you get a knee injury, it could mean the end of your sumo career
  • You have to be invited to join a beya.  There is no application process.  They find you.    
  • You have to be at least 15 years old to join a beya.  After age 30, sumo wrestlers generally no longer compete (as it can become dangerous)
  • At the beya we were at, there was a 16-year old.  He was by far the smallest (weight-wise, that is), relative to those he was practicing against.   He got his butt kicked, but I was mesmerized by how hard he worked.  
  • There is a real spiritual/religious aspect to sumo.  Sumo wrestlers throw salt on the ring to purify it 
  • Women are not allowed in the ring.  Not cool.
  • There are 47 beyas in Tokyo
  • We could go on, but we won’t. 

Sumo wrestlers are tough, strong, and incredibly disciplined.  Watching the smallest one fight as hard as he did was a total reminder that there will always be someone that is stronger or better, but that you only get better by pushing yourself. 

PHOTOS from the sumo beya