Today you’ll rise early, meet your guide at your hotel and head to Ryogoku, the epicenter of all things sumo. Ryogoku houses the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium and most of Tokyo’s sumo stables, known as heya, where rikishi (sumo wrestlers) live and train.
At around 7:45 this morning, you’ll visit one of these heya and witness the morning training session, or asa geiko, of the giant wrestlers. It’s part of a solemn and challenging custom that has been in place for hundreds of years.
The day of the lowest-ranked rikishi begins much earlier in the morning, when they rise and spend some time training before fulfilling their assigned duties, such as cleaning the heya and cooking the main meal of the day for the rest of the stable members.
Higher-ranked wrestlers awake at a more reasonable hour and train from about 7am until 10am. After several hours of exercises and technique practice, the wrestlers participate in a game where one wrestler fights others in the ring without any rest until he is defeated. (Please note: Depending on conditions, this activity may be held in a location other than Ryogoku, although this is rare.) The tour will end at the closest train station.
In the afternoon, you’ll meet with a unique performance troupe headed by one of Japan’s most famous sword choreographers. Here, you’ll learn one of Japan’s ancient arts: how to fight with a katana, or samurai sword. Tetsuro Shimaguchi was the head choreographer of the famous fight scene in the snowy garden in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume One. He is the leading member of Kamui, a Japanese sword performance troupe whose fluid techniques are breathtaking to watch. Kamui’s performances are often collaborations with artists from diverse genres and backgrounds, such as musicians of Japanese traditional instruments, rock groups and trance music.
As one of Japan’s few professional sword-fighting outfits today, Kamui offers a very unique experience! You’ll cover the basic techniques of sword fighting, including drawing and swinging and different stances. Afterwards, try out your newly learned forms with swordplay practice. (Please note: You can opt to replace one of these activities with a visit to a kabuki theater.)
Alternative Activity: Kabuki Guided Tour
This is your chance to watch real kabuki, a fascinating form of Japanese theater that dates back to the Edo Period. Performances are characterized by elaborate costuming and painstakingly choreographed, exaggerated movements. UNESCO has designated kabuki a protected form of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Be part of the audience at the famous Kabukiza Theatre in Tokyo’s Ginza District. Before the show, you’ll be treated to some matcha (powdered green tea) and traditional sweets at a café near the theater as you meet an expert kabuki guide. She’ll explain the stories and characters of the day’s performance, as well as kabuki’s provenance.
You’ll be escorted just around the corner to the performance, which is actually 3 or 4 short shows of about an hour each, with intermissions between. Show times are 09:30 and 15:00, and the show will last 4 to 5 hours. This activity can replace any of the other activities available today. (Please note: An additional charge may apply.)
Overnight in Tokyo
Meals included: Breakfast