Japan is a sports lover’s paradise, hosting numerous exciting sporting events throughout the year. From sumo wrestling tournaments to professional baseball games, Japan has something to offer all types of fans. If you’re planning a trip to Japan and want to experience some of the most popular sports competitions up-close, here are the most exciting events you won’t want to miss.
Sumo wrestling is Japan’s national sport, deeply rooted in Shinto rituals and Japanese tradition. The highest division tournaments, known as honbasho, are held six times a year in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka and feature the country’s top wrestlers battling it out in an elevated dirt wrestling ring.
Tournaments last 15 days and tickets usually sell out months in advance, so plan ahead if you want to catch an authentic sumo competition with all the ceremonial traditions. The loud cheers of spectators, powerful clashes between giant wrestlers in colorful mawashi belts and sacred rituals that take place before, during and after matches make for a one-of-a-kind cultural experience.
According to japanesebetting.com, there are only a limited number of bookmakers offering odds on this thrilling sport. However, there are options available should you wish to make watching sumo even more exciting. You can pick which wrestler will win an individual match (which is easier to predict, as there are only two possibilities) or who will win a tournament overall.
The Japan Open Golf Tournament
Golf enthusiasts visiting Japan in October can catch the Japan Open Golf Championship, which is Japan’s national open golf championship event. Since 1972, this event has attracted top players from all over the world to compete for the $9.95 million prize purse, as well as many sports betting fans who try to predict the winner.
It’s held at different golf courses around Japan. Past hosts include the Narita Golf Club, Sapporo Golf Club and most recently, the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, which offers scenic views of Lake Shukugawara. Don’t miss your chance to see the world’s best golfers up close at this internationally-acclaimed event.
The Yokohama Marathon
Taking place every November, the Yokohama Marathon attracts around 18,000 runners to Japan’s second-largest city. Participants from across the globe compete in the full and half marathon races that weave through Yokohama’s streets, parks and harbor, passing by famous sites like Sankei-en Garden, Yamashita Park and Ōsanbashi Pier.
Spectators line the entire marathon route to cheer on runners in this hugely popular race first established in 1983. Catch all the excitement by gathering at the marathon’s start and finish point next to Yokohama Stadium or staking out a spot along the course for prime viewing.
Japanese Baseball Games
Baseball is hugely popular in Japan, drawing millions of passionate fans to ballparks across the country. Catching a game featuring one of Japan’s professional teams during the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) season from March-October is a fun way to see the athleticism and enthusiasm on display by players and fans alike.
Historic stadiums like the Tokyo Dome, Kyocera Dome and Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome host exciting matchups across two professional leagues. If possible, see popular teams like the Yomiuri Giants, Hanshin Tigers or SoftBank Hawks compete for a uniquely Japanese ballgame experience.
You might also want to try and catch a Pacific League game featuring one of six professional teams like the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Saitama Seibu Lions or Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Stadiums like the ZOZO Marine Stadium or PayPay Dome provide excellent views of Japan’s impressive baseball facilities where fans enthusiastically cheer with songs, chants and colorful displays of team pride for hours.
Tickets are very affordable, starting around just $10-15 USD. Stop by a Pacific League ball game during your travels for front row seats to high intensity matchups between Japanese teams striving to finish the season atop the league standings. Betting on the outcome of these games is also popular, so why not back your favorite team or player to add to the excitement?
FIS Ski Jumping World Cup
From late January to early March, some of the world’s best ski jumpers flock to Japan to compete in the annual FIS Ski Jumping World Cup. Hosted at some of Japan’s major ski resorts, the world cup features daring athletes flying down steep hillside ramps to see who can jump the farthest off the slope’s edge.
Sapporo’s Ōkurayama Ski Jump Stadium is a frequent host that offers prime views of skiers soaring through the sky with the mountains as a scenic backdrop. This thrilling winter event draws huge crowds, so be sure to arrive early for good standing room around the jump platform.
World Figure Skating Championships
Figure skating has a massive fan base in Japan and people from across the country excitedly attend the World Figure Skating Championships held annually in March. First established in 1896, this prestigious competition determines the world’s top male and female skaters across four disciplines – ladies’ singles, men’s singles, pairs and ice dancing. Past host cities include Tokyo, Saitama and Yokohama, which have showcased athletes performing daring jumps, graceful spins and beautifully choreographed routines. If you happen to be traveling in Japan when the World Championships are held, don’t hesitate to grab tickets to this visually stunning event.
Nagoya Women’s Marathon
With around 15,000 female participants taking to the course annually, the Nagoya Women’s Marathon claims to be the world’s largest women-only race of its kind. First launched in 1980, the event takes place in early March and attracts both amateur runners and elite world-class athletes.
Runners wind through Nagoya’s streets, passing Nagoya Castle, Sakae, and Tsuruma Park – home to the marathon’s finish line. Spectators line the entire route, loudly cheering, waving signs and offering high-fives to runners in a show of incredible encouragement and support. Entry slots fill up almost a year in advance, so set your marathon plans early if you want to run in this hugely popular event.
Mt. Fuji Hill Climb Race
Car and motorcycle enthusiasts visiting Japan in July can catch the annual Mt. Fuji Hill Climb Race near scenic Lake Yamanaka and Mt. Fuji. Held since 2017, this exciting event hosted by the Japan Automobile Federation attracts professional daredevil drivers from across Japan who race their specially tuned cars and bikes uphill along steep winding roads. Spectators can get up close to the pulse-pounding action along the 4 km long course and feel the roar of engines echo through the hills during an adrenaline-filled few hours. Get ready to see extreme hill climbing stunts against the picture-perfect backdrop of Mt. Fuji.
The East Japan Judo Championships
As judo’s birthplace, it’s no surprise Japan boasts so many world-class judo athletes and competitions for fans to enjoy. If your Japan travels fall in April, try to attend the annual two-day East Japan Judo Championships held in Tokyo at the legendary Nippon Budokan arena.
Hundreds of judo practitioners from eastern Japan prefectures compete across multiple age and weight divisions to take home the gold medal. You’ll be amazed to witness the power and discipline on display by skilled judo competitors in Judo’s spiritual homeland. Stop by to experience this dynamic Japanese martial arts event up close while surrounded by incredibly enthusiastic local fans.
From sumo wrestling tournaments to competitive marathons and everything in between, Japan truly offers exhilarating sporting events around the clock. When visiting Japan, be sure to take in one or more of these major sports competitions to appreciate the incredible skill of Japanese athletes while witnessing the nation’s passionate fan culture firsthand. Catching one of these events will certainly be a travel highlight that captures Japanese sports fever at its finest.