Behind the Lens – Photographing a Sumo Tournament in Tokyo –


Photographing a Sumo Tournament in Tokyo at Ryogoku Kokugikan

Sumo wrestling has been an integral a part of Japanese tradition for hundreds of years, and its tournaments have captivated audiences all around the world, some intensely , others puzzled however amused by what they’re witnessing.

*Just a little warning for many who don’t need to see an excessive amount of flesh, the photographs inside this text do showcase plenty of pores and skin. I’ve tried to {photograph} the occasion tastefully and used inventive methods to make the photographs a bit of extra arty…hopefully you’ll take pleasure in seeing a peek inside this fascinating Japanese sport.

On my current journey to Tokyo, I used to be fortunate sufficient to order a ticket to the September match at Ryogoku Kokugikan, the nationwide sumo enviornment of Japan. I reserved the seat on-line, picked up the tickets at a neighborhood 7-Eleven retailer and had no thought as to the place we’d be sitting, however assumed it could be very removed from the motion as a result of they had been roughly $20AUD.

Spoiler, we had been within the very again row, however this really ended up being splendid for somebody who had no thought what was taking place and wished to {photograph} as a lot as doable with out getting in anybody’s approach.

So, let’s chat about sumo wrestling, a phrase I by no means thought I’d be typing. I need to provide an perception into what it’s wish to {photograph} at a sumo match, some pictures suggestions to assist plan what lenses to pack and what digicam settings work finest, plus a bit of perception into what the heck is definitely taking place once they step into the ring, or extra particularly, dohyō.

One of probably the most distinguished sumo tournaments is held yearly in September in Tokyo, only a few blocks down from the Tokyo Skytree at Ryogoku Kokugikan National Sumo Arena. This occasion not solely showcases the bodily prowess and ability of sumo wrestlers but additionally pays homage to the wealthy custom and historical past of this revered sport. The enviornment, the ambiance and the evident tradition present an interesting perception into each the rivals and the followers.

Sumo wrestling dates to historic Japan, with its origins deeply rooted in Shinto rituals. Considered a sacred occasion, it was believed to be a option to entertain the gods and convey luck to the neighborhood. Over time, it advanced right into a extremely expert sport that calls for immense power, agility, and psychological self-discipline. Today, sumo tournaments are held in grand arenas known as “kokugikan,” which interprets to “national sport hall,” symbolising the importance of this historic custom.

The September Sumo Tournament in Tokyo

The September sumo match in Tokyo is without doubt one of the most prestigious occasions on the sumo wrestling calendar. The match, generally known as the “Aki Basho,” attracts followers from world wide who collect on the Ryogoku Kokugikan to witness the extraordinary battles between sumo wrestlers, or “rikishi.” These wrestlers, carrying nothing greater than loincloths and an emblem of their steady’s crest, preserving the simplicity and sacredness of the game.

I need to admit to being a bit of bowled over after I first placed on the 40-150mm F2.8 professional lens and paired it with my MC-20 2 x teleconverter to get nearer to the motion…hi there pores and skin!

The match spans over fifteen days, with every day’s matches divided into varied divisions, ranging from the lowest-ranked wrestlers, generally known as “jonokuchi,” to the highest-ranked, known as “makuuchi.” The competitors progresses in a round-robin format, the place every wrestler fights towards each different wrestler inside their division. The objective is to win as many matches as doable to safe the next rank within the following tournaments.

The foremost matches with the makuuchi begin round 4:30pm and final roughly an hour and a half. However, the day begins at 9am and you’ll enter the stadium to observe the decrease ranked rivals too. We arrived at 11am, as a result of I wished time to get adjusted to the situations, attempt to work out what was happening and the way all the pieces flowed. By arriving early, we had loads of area round us as a lot of the crowd didn’t arrive till 3-4pm, it meant I might transfer round in my seat with out bothering anyway and gave me an opportunity to check out come inventive methods with plenty of matches.

In the morning, the ambiance contained in the Ryogoku Kokugikan was actually fairly relaxed, as soon as the larger matches began taking place round 5pm although, it’s electrifying, with the gang chanting the names of their favorite wrestlers and waving indicators.

Photo Tips for Sumo Wrestling

Firstly, no flash pictures is allowed (until you’re a registered member of the press), and also you’re not permitted to stroll the aisles making an attempt to get a greater vantage level. Essentially, you are taking your seat and {photograph} from it.

Due to the structure of the sector, it’s very easy to {photograph} from nearly any seat, as I stated, I used to be within the very again row and nonetheless liked the expertise and got here away with plenty of photographs I used to be actually proud of.

  • Pack a zoom lens, in the event you’re like me and find yourself within the again row, you’ll want all of the zoom you will get in the event you’re looking for nearer photographs of the rivals. I had the OM SYSTEM OM-1 digicam paired with the 40-150mm f2.8 professional lens and the MC-20 2x teleconverter on for a lot of the day.
  • There are loads of matches all through the day, so watch a couple of first to see what elements you need to {photograph} and begin to generate some inventive concepts for the way.
  • Look round to see what different components you may embody inside your photographs, I liked bending barely in my seat to include the golden glow of the banister. At first it felt prefer it was in my approach, however then I discovered a option to compose the photographs and produce some inventive photographs that includes the rivals and a little bit of golden bokeh.

  • Don’t be so consumed by taking photographs that you simply miss the expertise and participating within the ambiance.
  • Numerous the matches are over inside mere seconds, so it may be useful to set your digicam to seize a number of frames. I used to be utilizing the OM SYSTEM Pro Capture as soon as the matches bought actually spectacular!
  • The press pit is situated proper beside the dohyō, in the event you’re sitting reverse, it may be enjoyable to time your photographs with their flashes to assist create a picture that highlights the spectacle and provides an extra pop of sunshine to set the scene.

  • You may have to extend your ISO to round 1600 and shoot with a quick shutter velocity to comfortably seize the motion with out blur. It’s comparatively well-lit inside the sector, nonetheless relying on the place you’re seated, the decrease mild could make issues a bit of trickier.
  • Before every match, the sumo wrestlers will stretch and do the identical routine. This is a good likelihood to seize portraits and experiment with varied angles, compositions and topics.

Creative Challenge – Photographing Movement

There are a bunch of matches all through the day, so many that you simply’ll ultimately need to experiment and get a bit of inventive along with your images.

Give lengthy exposures a go to seize the motion and movement of the athletes, but additionally the custom. Between matches somebody will come out to make use of a brush to comb the floor, for every stage of competitors, there’s a parade of rivals and the motion right here is extremely enjoyable to seize as they stroll across the dohyō with the colorful crests.

Once the higher-ranked sumo wrestlers take the stage, you’ll discover a parade of banners earlier than every match begins. These are sponsors, and the extra money on the match, the extra vibrant banners are paraded round. It’s really fairly enjoyable to see as a result of it might start with three banners, then an extra six will come from a special course and the gang goes wild with cheers. During this time the sumo wrestlers are getting ready so you may seize the motion of the banners whereas they’re within the body.

How to Get Sumo Tickets

The schedule for the yr’s tournaments may be discovered on the official web site right here, the location additionally states when tickets are launched and how one can buy them.

For the September match, I really bought mine about three weeks upfront, nonetheless there was solely the one date left, and the seats had been within the again row. If you’re hoping to have a bit of extra alternative by way of date and seat allocation, remember to reserve your tickets the second they’re launched, sometimes about 6-8 weeks earlier than a match.

Reserve your tickets right here (The English model must be seen, if not, there’s a language tab on the high of the display)

Keen to maintain studying about photographing Japan? Browse the next free guides beneath

Extensive Location Guide – A Photographer’s Guide to Photographing Tokyo

A Complete Guide to Kyoto Photography Locations

Visiting Shibuya Sky – Tips for Photographers

Step Inside the Hoshinoya Tokyo – Luxury Hotel Review





Enjoyed studying? Share the article!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here