Before Mixed Martial Arts came to life and started trending on the world stage, Japan has been practicing sumo, a traditional grappling sport. In fact, just a train ride away from Tokyo lies Ryogoku, home of the sumo culture and the and the arena where great sumo fights still live, the Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Ryogoku continues to be a face of the Edo era, with the Edo –Tokyo Museum standing proudly within the area’s midst and a reminder of Tokyo’s past and present as well as the Sumida Hokusai Museum. The streets of Ryogoku is a home to several sumo stables wherein one can witness wrestlers in training. When not in practice, these wrestlers adorned Ryogoku streets in their kimono (traditional Japanese dress) or yukata (Japanese summer dress).
During tournament season, which is usually held in January, May, and September, one can get a glimpse of a game at Ryogoku Kokugikan along with Japan’s elites, who often flock and occupy the prime seats of the arena. This experience of watching a classic Japanese sumo match is indeed an excellent way to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture.
And after an awe-inspiring sumo game—or a tour of Ryogoku’s must-see places, what a better way to cap the day but to drop by and get a fill of Japanese cuisine in some of Ryogoku’s notable food joints. Here is the Ryogoku food guide for making your Tokyo trip delicious.
If you still have a hangover of everything that’s sumo, why not sink in your teeth in the sumo wrestler’s diet staple—chanko nabe. This dish is similar to a stew cooked with a variety of vegetables, meat, and tofu that’s sure to provide energy that the wrestlers need. Kappo Yoshiba, touted as the oldest chanko nabe restaurant in Ryogoku, is located in a former sumo stable, with a ring still present at the center of the restaurant. A meal here could cost between ¥900 to ¥3,500. Another well-liked chanko restaurant is Chanko Tomogata, which serves three variants of chanko. A giant chanko nabe pot could cost ¥2,940 while a smaller serving included in a set meal ranges between ¥1300 to ¥1900. Ami Ryougoku Souhonten, a chanko place minutes away from the Ryogoku Station, has mastered preparing seafood chanko made up of scallops, fish, prawns and squid in miso-based soup. Price range is from ¥1000 to ¥4000 per meal. The sumo-themed izakaya named Hananomai Ryougoku, with a sumo ring right in the middle of the restaurant and offers nomhodai (drink all you can) and tabehodai (eat all you can) at ¥3,980.
To add to the Edo experience (and to add to your fill of anything Japanese) head on to Ryogoku Edo Noren. Situated at the former Ryogoku Station, this food court that houses several restaurants serving traditional Japanese cuisine and a sumo ring, which is used to stage Edo culture-inspired events.
Those who like to have a Michelin-star meal experience, Ryogoku is a home to Hosokawa. The owner-chef, Takahashi Hosokawa, uses high-grade buckwheat for its soba. Popular dishes are kaki soba and anago tempura. Other starters are also available to compliment your soba. Meals costs around ¥3,000 to ¥6,000.
Meanwhile, those with dumpling cravings can enjoy the timeless taste of gyoza at Gyoza Kaikan Bandaisan. This store offers a gyoza challenge wherein gyoza is free for those who can finish 100 gyoza an hour for men and 50 gyoza for women for 30 minutes. However, failure to meet the challenge will cost you a hefty sum of ¥8,000.
For dessert, head on to Kokugido. This stall sells sumo merchandise and snacks. For quick sweet tooth fix, order their roasted mochi with red bean paste filling or anko arare and anmitsu or Japanese style parfait. Also, a favorite place to visit for some sweet treats is Okawaya, which sells seasonal confections and is famous for its Sumida River Monaka or bird-shaped cookie sandwich with bean paste filling.
Cap your sumo and Edo-filled adventure in Ryogoku at Popeye. One can select the perfect beer from their selection of 70 quality draft beers on tap.
Ryogoku—a face of the Edo and sumo culture is also a heavyweight with the sights and food places showcasing the both traditional and modern-day Japan.
Aleli is a wanderlust whose main itinerary is to culture soak in the places that she sets foot on, sinking her teeth in the gustatory offerings that the place has to offer and knowing the story behind it. Food for her is a marriage of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the rich history of every city she explores and uses the pen as her tool to share to the world each unique experience she unravels.