For information on current sporting events taking place in Tokyo, ranging from kickboxing and pro wrestling to sumo, baseball, soccer, table tennis, and golf, contact the Tourist Information Center, or pick up a copy of the free weekly Metropolis magazine.
Baseball -- Introduced into Japan from the United States in 1873, baseball is as popular among Japanese as it is among Americans. Even the annual high-school playoffs keep everyone glued to their television sets. As with other imports, the Japanese have added their modifications, including cheerleaders. Several American players have proven very popular with local fans; but according to the rules, no more than four foreigners may play on any one team. In recent years, there's been a reverse exodus of top Japanese players defecting to American teams.
There are two professional leagues, the Central and the Pacific, which play from April to October and meet in the Japan Series. In Tokyo, the home teams are the Yomiuri Giants, who play at the Tokyo Dome (tel. 03/5800-9999; station: Korakuen or Suidobashi), and the Yakult Swallows, who play at Jingu Stadium (tel. 03/3404-8999; station: Gaienmae). Other teams playing in the vicinity of Tokyo are the Chiba Lotte Marines, who play at Chiba Marine Stadium in Chiba (tel. 043/296-8900), and the Yokohama BayStars, who play in downtown Yokohama Stadium (tel. 045/661-1251). Advance tickets go on sale Friday, 2 weeks prior to the game, and can be purchased at one of many Ticket Pia locations around town (such as the Sony building in Ginza or the Isetan department store annex in Shinjuku; ask your hotel for the one nearest you), except for the Giants, where tickets can be purchased only at Tokyo Dome. Prices for the Tokyo Dome and Jingu Stadium range from ¥1,800 for an unreserved seat in the outfield to ¥6,000 for seats behind home plate. The Giants are so popular, however, that tickets are hard to come by.
Sumo -- The Japanese form of wrestling, known as sumo, began perhaps as long as 1,500 years ago and is still the nation's most popular sport, with wrestlers -- often taller than 6 feet and weighing well over 300 pounds -- revered as national heroes. A sumo match takes place on a sandy-floored ring less than 4.5m (15 ft.) in diameter; the object is for a wrestler to either eject his opponent from the ring or cause him to touch the ground with any part of his body other than his feet. This is accomplished by shoving, slapping, tripping, throwing, even carrying the opponent. Altogether, there are 48 holds and throws, and sumo fans know them all. Most bouts are very short, lasting only 30 seconds or so. The highest-ranking players are called yokozuna, or grand champions; in 1993, a Hawaiian named Akebono was promoted to the highest rank, the first non-Japanese ever to be so honored. Nowadays, there are many high-ranking foreigners.
Sumo matches are held in Tokyo at the Kokugikan, 1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku (tel. 03/3622-1100; www.sumo.or.jp; station: Ryogoku, then a 1-min. walk; Tokyo Shitamachi Bus: Ryogoku Station). Matches are held in January, May, and September for 15 consecutive days, beginning at around 9:30am and lasting until 6pm; the top wrestlers compete after 3:30pm. The best seats are ringside box seats, but they're snapped up by companies or the friends and families of sumo wrestlers. Usually available are balcony seats, which can be purchased at Ticket Pia locations around town and JTB travel agencies. You can also purchase tickets directly at the Kokugikan ticket office beginning at 9am every morning of the tournament. Prices range from about ¥2,100 for an unreserved seat (sold only on the day of the event at the stadium, with about 400 seats available) to ¥8,200 for a good reserved seat.
If you can't make it to a match, watching on TV is almost as good. Tournaments in Tokyo, as well as those that take place annually in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka, are broadcast on the NHK channel from 4 to 6pm daily during matches.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.