Sumo is Japan's most famous and national sport, but there are many other traditional and not-so-traditional sports to discover
Think of sport in Japan, and you'll likely think of sumo. But don't forget to take the opportunity to get to know some of Japan's other traditional sports as well as so-called Western imports. Like many other countries across the world, baseball and soccer are wildly popular in Japan. Going to a game—where the passionate fans provide as much entertainment as the players—would certainly be a highlight of your trip.
If you get a chance to watch a sumo tournament during your visit, make sure you take it. Two-week tournaments of Japan's official national sport are held six times a year in four different locations. While a single bout of highly technical pushing and shoving can be over in mere seconds, the ritualistic aspect of the sport makes for an engrossing spectacle.
The sport has recently seen a surge in popularity, and it can be tricky to get hold of tickets—especially for the weekends—so booking in advance is recommended. Seat prices vary depending on how close you sit, however even if you find yourself a little set back from the action, the sheer force of two man-mountains colliding at ferocious speed sends shock waves around the entire arena.
Kendo—think fencing with a Japanese twist. Originating from kenjutsu or swordsmanship, the most important martial art of the samurai, competitors wear special protective gear and strike at their opponent's head, chest or hand with a bamboo sword. Find out more information on the All Japan Kendo Federation official website .
Perhaps the most famous of the Japanese martial arts, judo remains a strong element of the country's sports fabric and is a major focus of Japan's Olympic efforts. The basic principle is the use of self-defense techniques countering your opponent's offense. The judoka wear colored obi belts to show his or her level of ability—white for beginners and black for advanced. Check out the All Japan Judo Federation website for more information.
Karate is a combative sport that came from China through the Ryukyu Kingdom—present-day Okinawa . No protection is worn and competitors can only use their hands and fists. Compared to other combative sports, karate is a more practical martial art. The Japan Karatedo Federation official website has more information.
The fundamental principle of Aikido is: Do not fight force with force. The sport practices forms for the sake of perfecting the forms, and is therefore not as physical as Judo or Karate. Aikido is excellent as mental training or as a fitness sport. Find out more information here .
Baseball is close to a religion in Japan and fans of the respective twelve teams must be some of the most fervent supporters in the world. Contrary to the relatively laid-back ball games in the United States, baseball games in Japan are a spectacle of song and dance with each player being serenaded with his own original song and explosions of fireworks and jet-balloons.
Tokyo has a couple of teams where you can see games at the indoor Tokyo Dome Stadium or the outdoor Jingu Stadium—both central locations. Alternatively, Koshien Stadium on the border of Hyogo and Osaka prefectures is a bubbling cauldron where support for the local team can reach fever pitch. Wherever you are in Japan, try to catch a game. For more information and game schedules, have a look at the Professional Baseball Organization of Japan's website .
Tokyo's 2002 FIFA joint World Cup with Korea sparked a frenzy of interest in soccer and this popularity continues to bud and blossom. There is passionate support for local teams as well as the national teams—both male and female. Catch a game if you are here during the season. Get the latest news and game schedules here .