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Sumo town, big fun: 7 things to do in Ryogoku

Sumo town, big fun: 7 things to do in Ryogoku

Just like any capital city, Tokyo (東京都 Tōkyō-tō) is a place of hustle and bustle which offers countless interesting areas and must-see attractions. An area of this ginormous metropolis that often goes underexplored, however, is East Tokyo. While East Tokyo may not get the same amount of attention as its counterparts, the neighborhood is filled with a local charm that will take any visitor off the beaten path towards new and exciting experiences.

 

Ryogoku (両国 Ryogōku), located in Sumida Ward (墨田区 Sumida-ku), is one such locale. In walking distance of Tokyo Skytree, Ryogoku has been hailed as ‘sumo (相撲) town’ for its far-reaching history with the sport. More than that, the city also offers a variety of museums and stretches along the formidable Sumida River (隅田川 Sumida-gawa). Here are seven things that you can check out in your next day tour to Ryogoku!

 

1. Sumo stables

(Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

With a rich history dating back to the early 20th century, Ryogoku’s connection to Japan’s national sport, sumo, is undeniable. Located all around the town, Ryogoku is home to more than half of the 48 active sumo stables in Japan where aspiring sumo wrestlers and veterans alike live and train for their next big match. Following a strict daily regiment, sumo wrestlers can be seen going about their training in the early hours of the morning. 

 

Since each sumo stable has its own rules and regulations when it comes to visitors and spectators, if you are keen on watching these strongmen flex their strength, it is best to check each stable’s website in advance out of courtesy and to avoid disappointment. Just make sure that the next time you do pay a visit to Ryogoku, do not be surprised to see a sumo wrestler taking a stroll in his kimono or being seated next to you at one of the several chanko nabe (ちゃんこ鍋) restaurants dotted around the neighbourhood!

 

2. Ryogoku Kokugikan (Ryogoku Sumo Hall)

(Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

If you have ever seen or heard about a sumo tournament hosted in Japan, it was most probably at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan (両国国技館) or the Ryogoku Sumo Hall. The impressive stadium, built in 1985, is Japan’s main sumo hall and boasts a capacity of over 10,000 spectators. With a suspended Shinto-style roof hanging just above the centre stage sumo ring, the interior of the stadium itself is truly a sight to behold. Hosting 3–4 of the six official grand annual sumo tournaments (本場所 honbasho) a year—the Hatsu, Natsu, and Aki Honbasho—each tournament spans a duration of just over two weeks. 

 

(Image credit: Aussie Assault / CC BY 2.0)

 

If you are planning on watching a live sumo match, ensure that you check when tickets go on sale as they tend to get snapped up quickly. Generally, seats are divided into three main categories based on location and price: tamariseki (溜席), masuseki (枡席), and arena seats. The tamariseki, being the most prestigious seats, as you are seated along ringside, are also the most expensive and are usually reserved for officials or sponsors with few going on sale to the public. Next is the masuseki, they are small, individually-squared mats where one can enjoy a nice premade bento and sake while still getting a good view of the action. Finally, the arena seats are located on the second floor of the hall and are relatively inexpensive. 

 

Whichever suits your fancy, a visit to Ryogoku’s Kokugikan is sure to be an experience to remember, so what are you waiting for? Hakkeyoi!!!

 

Ryōgoku Kokugikan (両国国技館)
Address: 1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0015
Nearest station: Ryogoku Station (両国駅)
Opening hours: 10am–4:30pm
Admission fee: Varies
Tel: +81 3-3623-5111

 

3. Edo-Tokyo Museum

(Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

Located just opposite the Ryogoku Sumo Hall, the Edo-Tokyo Museum (江戸東京博物館 Edo-Tōkyō Hakubutsukan) is devoted to preserving and showcasing the cultural legacy and heritage of Edo (江戸), the former name of modern-day Tokyo. Hosting three permanent exhibitions—the Comprehensive History Zone, the Edo Zone, and the Tokyo Zone—along with an ever changing array of special exhibitions, it would be hard not to imagine oneself being transported back in time. 

 

Opened in 1993, the striking edifice housing the museum is modelled after a kura (倉 traditional rice storehouse), which was popularised during the Edo Period (1603–1868), and also boasts the same height as Edo Castle. With its expansive collection of replica figurines and buildings, dioramas, a library, and much more, the immersive museum brings to life the rich history of Edo throughout the centuries. To see how a small fishing village turned into the bustling metropolis of neon lights it is known as today, The Edo-Tokyo Museum is a must-visit attraction for both history buffs and fans of Tokyo alike!

 

Edo-Tokyo Museum (江戸東京博物館)
Address: 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0015
Nearest station: Ryogoku Station (両国駅)
Opening hours: 9:30am–5:30pm (Last entry: 5pm)
Admission fee (Permanent Exhibitions): ¥600 (Adults), ¥480 (University & college students), ¥300 (Seniors are 65 years and above / High school & junior high school students), Free (Primary school students and younger) 
Admission fee (for Special Exhibitions): Varies by exhibition
Tel: +81-3-3626-9974

 

4. Sumida Hokusai Museum 

(Image credit: Kakidai / CC BY-SA 4.0 & Alex S.)

 

An ukiyo-e artist known and renowned across all corners of the globe, the Sumida Hokusai Museum (すみだ北斎美術館 Sumida Hokusai Bijutsukan) is dedicated to Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎), more commonly referred to as, simply, Hokusai. Known for his works such as ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ and ‘Fine Wind, Clear Morning’, amongst many others, the Sumida Hokusai Museum was erected in 2016 to recognise and pay tribute to one of Japan’s most beloved artists.

 

(Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

The birthplace of Hokusai and an area he would spend much of his years residing in, the selection of the museum’s location was by no pure coincidence. Visitors will be met with a monolithic metal building which is condensed with replicas of Hokusai’s more famous and lesser-known pieces as well as original works and interactive informational panels to go along. Once you’ve had your fair share of the exhibitions, before leaving, do take some time to stop by the museum shop and library!

 

Sumida Hokusai Museum (すみだ北斎美術館)
Address: 2-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0014
Nearest station: Ryogoku Station (両国駅)
Opening hours: 9:30am–5:30pm (Last entry: 5pm) (Closed on Mondays & New Year Holidays)
Admission fee (Permanent Exhibitions): ¥400 (Adults), ¥300 (University, college, high school students, seniors age 65 and above), Free (Junior high school students and younger)
Admission fee (Special Exhibitions): Varies by exhibition
Tel: +81 3-6658-8936

 

5. Ryogoku Yuya Edo-yu

(Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

What’s exploring a historic neighbourhood without a trip to a public bathhouse or sento (銭湯 sentō)? Right behind the Sumida Hokusai Museum along Hokusai Street is Ryogoku Yuya Edo-yu (両国湯屋 江戸遊). Unlike regular bathhouses, though, Edo-yu is a ‘super’ sento with a modern twist that operates like a fancy spa. With over six different types of baths, three types of sauna, and other facilities like treatments and resting areas for each gender, Edo-yu is the perfect place to unwind after a long day of walking around Ryogoku. Do expect the price to be a tad bit more expensive than usual bathhouses, but it’s justifiable seeing that this place runs through the night until the next morning! 

 

Ryogoku Yuya Edo-yu (両国湯屋 江戸遊)
Address: 1-5-8 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0014
Nearest station: Ryogoku Station (両国駅)
Opening hours: 11am–9am (the next day)
Admission fee: ¥2,750 (Adults), ¥2,050 (Ages 12–18) (Additional surcharge of ¥340 per hour between 12am–6am, maximum of 5 hours)
Admission fee (Morning bath / Short-time usage): ¥1,250 (Adults), ¥950 (Ages 12–18)
Tel: +81 3-3621-2611

 

6. Kyu-Yasuda Garden

(Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

An unassuming garden located in the heart of Ryogoku, the Kyu-Yasuda Garden (旧安田庭園 Kyū-Yasuda Teien) offers lush greenery, a tranquil pond, and quaint walkways for visitors. Constructed in the Edo period and originally a property of a samurai residing in the area, the garden is styled after traditional Japanese aesthetics that highlight the serenity of the natural landscape. 

 

When taking a stroll around the garden, one is met with a view of Tokyo Skytree in the backdrop that creates a delightful scenery encompassing both old and new. Despite its modest size, the garden is also a popular spot for couples to take photos in traditional Japanese attire. Weary travellers can rest their legs in a small traditional Japanese tea house while staying under the shade or the benches located all around the garden. An oasis in the midst of the buildings and concrete of Ryogoku, the Kyu-Yasuda Garden is free to enter and is sure to leave one feeling refreshed and at peace.

 

Kyu-Yasuda Garden (旧安田庭園)
Address: 1-12-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Nearest station: Ryogoku Station (両国駅)
Opening hours: 9am–7:30pm (April–September), 9am–6pm (October–March) (Closed on New Year Holidays)
Admission fee: Free

 

7. Japanese Sword Museum

(Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

Right next to the Kyu-Yasuda Garden sits the Japanese Sword Museum (刀剣博物館 Tōken Hakubutsukan), a museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of Japanese sword-making and samurai artefacts. Exhibiting a variety of Japanese swords, hilts, and armor, each piece holds its own historical value with some even having been awarded special status. Besides showcasing these extraordinary weapons, the museum also acts as a continued platform for people to appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry behind the Japanese sword. The Japanese Sword Museum hosts both permanent exhibitions and special exhibitions and is sure to capture the fascination of anyone wishing to find out more about traditional Japanese weaponry.

 

Japanese Sword Museum (刀剣博物館)
Address: 1-12-9 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0015
Nearest station: Ryogoku Station (両国駅)
Opening hours: 9am–5pm (Last entry: 4:30pm) (Closed on Mondays & New Year Holidays)
Admission fee (Permanent Exhibitions): ¥1,000 (Adults), ¥500 (Students), Free (Age 15 and below)
Admission fee (Special Exhibitions): Varies by exhibition
Tel: +81 3-6284-1000

 

Access via Ryogoku Station

(Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

As far as navigating around the area goes, all of the aforementioned attractions and spots are walking distance from the district’s busiest transport hub: Ryogoku Station  (両国駅 Ryōgoku-eki). Depending on whichever is convenient, you can opt for either the JR Chūō–Sōbu Line (中央・総武緩行線 Chūō-Sōbu-kankō-sen) or the Tokyo Metro Toei Ōedo Line (都営地下鉄大江戸線 Toei Chikatetsu Ōedo-sen) which serve as the station’s main lines.

 

Folks making their way from Tokyo Station would simply need to hop on the JR Yamanote Line (山手線 Yamanote-sen) to Akihabara Station (2 stops) before transferring to the Chūō–Sōbu Line for Ryogoku (2 stops), which takes only around 10 minutes. Directly connected to the West Exit (JR side) is the Edo NOREN where you can indulge in Edo-fashioned cuisine, and of course, the famed sumo stew chanko nabe.


Map of Ryogoku. (Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

You want sumo this?

Hakkyoi! (Image credit: Yuki K.)

 

That concludes our top recommendations on what to do and see in Ryogoku. Just a stone’s throw away from some of the more popular tourist destinations around Tokyo, Ryogoku is sure to fit the itinerary of even the most packed schedules. While these recommendations are sure to keep you busy, do feel free to explore the area in any way you see fit and don’t forget to appreciate the little sumo-related easter eggs dotted across the district’s infrastructure! 

 

Header image credit: Alex S. / Wiiii / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Yuki K.

 

Writers’ profile: Alex and Yuki are both graduate students studying and living in Tokyo. When they’re not busy hitting the books or attending online classes, you will most probably find them exploring interesting nooks and crannies in the Tokyo area.

 

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