Japanese ceremonial wrestling, sumo,
and judo are the national sports of Japan.
Both drawing large crowds. There are 6 sumo tournaments
every year, each lasts for 15 days. 3 of them take place in Tokyo,
and the others are held in Fukuoka, Osaka and Nagoya. Matches by
senior wrestlers commence at 15:00.
Sumo training sessions can be seen between
05:00 and 10:30 at Kasungo Stable in Tokyo
(tel: (3) 3631 1871). Judo enthusiasts can visit
the Kodokan Judo Hall, 1-16-30, Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku,
Tokyo (tel: (3) 3818 4172), and sit in the spectators’
gallery. Visitors can purchase a costume and learn some of the techniques.
There are separate classes held for men and women and in many large
schools English is spoken. Details can be obtained from the All
Japan Judo Federation.
art of self-defence, is taught at schools in Japan
and has been a very popular sport since its introduction to the
country in 1922. For additional information contact the Japan
Karatedo Federation. Kendo, Japanese
fencing, is practised in many clubs and college
halls. In December, the All-Japan Championships take place in Tokyo.
Kyudo, Japanese archery, is among the
oldest martial arts. It is closely associated with Zen Buddhism.
Unlike most martial arts, it is taken up by by almost as many female
students as males. Yabusame, or archery
on horseback, which was first performed by courtiers or
imperial guards in the 7th century, is presently a Shinto rite to
ensure peace and good harvests. It is performed by horsemen wearing
colourful costumes who gallop down a narrow 250 metre course shooting
at small wooden targets set up at 80 metre intervals. The most
popular events are at Tsurugaoka Hachmagu shrine
in Kamakura held on the third Sunday in April
and on 16 September and at the Shimogano
Shrine in Kyoto on 3 May.
These are extremely popular and there are more than 50 major
ski resorts, particularly in the Japanese Alps
and on the northern island of Hokkaido. Among the
great attractions is the abundance of hot
springs in the skiing areas.
Many resorts at Nagana in Central Honshu offer
facilities for night-skiing. The southernmost
natural ski slope in Japan is the Gokase Highland
Ski, in the north Miyazaki prefecture,
which has grass skiing out of season from late April to November.
Transport connections are excellent, and there
are sometimes railway stations only a few minutes walk from the
slopes. During the ski season, it is necessary
to reserve seats on buses and trains. Although equipment
is easy to rent, it can sometimes be difficult to obtain ski boots
in larger sizes; skiers should call the resort in advance to ensure
Diving and snorkelling
are popular around the Kerama Islands near
Okinawa, which is among the world’s clearest sea
areas. From January to March, it is also a great
area for whale watching. All types of fishing is
available, and there are lots of keen anglers in Japan. Freshwater
fish include, funa (silver carp), trout and ayu (sweetfish).
Due to the shape of the country, fishing opportunities are never
far away. Travellers may like to try ukai or cormorant
fishing, a style of fishing where cormorants are used to
catch fish. The cormorants and the crew do the work and the passengers
watch. Food and drinks are provided. Expeditions depart in the evening
and can be booked through hotels and tourist boards in the Kyoto
Cycling is popular in April and May during the
cherry blossom season and also in October
and November when autumnal colours adorn
Japan. Because of snow and ice, cycling in Hokkaido and
in the northern area of the main island, Honshu,
is not advised from December to March.
Cyclists should keep to the left and must be careful because of
heavy traffic, particularly on the national highways. There are
many interesting paths routed through Toyko.
Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with Korea (Rep).
Football has become increasingly popular in Japan in recent years
with the introduction of the Japanese soccer J-League and
the involvement of the Japanese national team in the World Cup competition
of 1998 and 2002.
Courses in and around Tokyo are thought by many
to be among the most demanding in the world. A membership
or invitation is sometimes required. Some courses have
the added attraction of hot spring baths and mahjhong rooms. For
additional information, please contact the Japan
Golf Association (tel: (3) 3215 0003; facsimile: (3) 3214 2831).
Among the traditional entertainments available is bunraku,
a unique style of puppet theatre. This can be seen
in the larger towns, as can noh drama and kabuki,
traditional Japanese drama forms, with participants wearing medieval
The most amazing and colourful of Japan’s religious festivals
is held in Kyoto, the old imperial capital. The Gion Festival
reaches its peak on 16-17 July. A street parade
is held with the participants dressed in fine costumes and carrying
portable shrines. The huge floats depict ancient themes.
The Aoi (or hollyhock) Festival on 15 May
dates back to the 6th century. The procession, made up of imperial
messengers in oxcarts followed by a retinue of 600 people wearing
traditional costumes, departs at around 10:00 from the imperial
palace and heads for the Shimogamo-jinja shrine
where ceremonies are held. It then proceeds to
The Jidai Festival (Festival of the Ages) is of
more recent origin, though still magnificent to see. Over 2,000
people parade through the town wearing costumes dating from different
periods. For dates of additional festivals, see Special Events in
the Social Profile section.
Those wishing to see the Japanese tea ceremony
can arrange to do so with the tourist information centres in Kyoto
and Tokyo (see Contact Addresses section). If visitors
are interested in eastern religions they can organise
a stay at a shukubo (temple lodging).
The tourist office will have a complete list of temples offering
this service. Occasionally it is possible to participate in meditation