- Located in Tokyo's Sumida Ward.
- The heartland of Japanese sumo wrestling
- has the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena
- Home to or near to some of Tokyo's best museums
- The place to try chanko-nabe
Ryogoku is a bustling center of life at the east end of Tokyo across the Sumida River. Ryogoku is best known as the spiritual heartland of sumo in Japan.
Ryogoku is a blend of the down-to-earth (typical of Fukagawa a little further south), with its mainstreet conglomeration of cheap restaurants, somewhat tacky entertainment, and the elegant, with its temples, parks, and numerous museums.
The Ryogoku area 両国
The Ryogoku area is centered around JR Ryogoku station. To the south is Eko-in Temple, to the immediate north the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena and the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and to the north-east are numerous small single-interest museums.
The Ryogoku Kokugikan (literally Ryogoku National Sports Stadium) is on the north side of the JR Sobu line Ryogoku station. Built in 1985, it is the fourth sumo stadium in Tokyo. Traditionally sumo was held only outdoors at shrines and temples.
It was not until 1909 that a sumo-dedicated stadium was built in Ryogoku, Tokyo's traditional sumo area.
With a capacity of over 10,000, the stadium is used not only for sumo, but hosts a variety of events throughout the year such as boxing and pro wrestling, not to mention the 'Beethoven's Ninth for 5000 Voices' concert held here every year on the 3rd or 4th Sunday of February. Its main function, though, is as host to the 'Tokyo Basho': sumo tournaments held in January, May and September.
Kokugikan - the spiritual home of Japanese sumo
Sumo wrestlers' banners fly outside the Kokugikan in Ryogoku, Tokyo
A little inside the right-hand entrance to the Ryogoku Kokugikan is a small sumo museum. Lined along its walls are resplendent kesho-mawashi ceremonial aprons of every successive sumo yokozuna champion. Whatever your interest in sumo, these works of exquisite embroidery are worth a look. Each is accompanied by a short history and prominent photograph of the mighty wrestler. You can also see examples of the lacquered paddles used by sumo referees.
Entrance is free and, except during tournaments when limited to ticket-holders, accessible to all.
1-3-28 Yokoami Sumida-ku
Tokyo 130-0015 Japan
Tel. 03 3623 5111
Ryogoku Kokugikan & Sumo Museum Map
Edo Toyko Museum, Ryogoku
Edo-Tokyo Museum is just east of the Ryogoku Kokugikan. It is immediately identifiable by its distinctive design, something like a pyramid on stilts.
Allow at least a couple of hours to see the Edo-Tokyo Museum. This is a historical and cultural resource superlative in its imaginative presentations, interactivity, scope, and user-friendliness - for English-speakers as well.
No effort or expense has been spared here in presenting almost every facet of life in old Tokyo in a compelling and memorable way. Intricately constructed and minutely finished scale models abound, reconstructed historical buildings are there to be walked through, and a wealth of realia from over the ages is presented close up, sometimes even hands-on.
On entry the visitor is plunged into a replicated old Edo, crossing a life-size replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge. From here you look out over a vast space that resembles more an indoor version of a theme park than a traditional halls-and-corridors museum.
The extensive Edo section of the museum follows into modernized pre-War Japan - again presented in compellingly real detail and atmosphere. Especially recommended is the section dealing with Tokyo during the Second World War.
Perhaps best of all, all exhibits have at least some English explanation, explanations notable for their balanced and often politically enlightened commentary.
1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku
Tel: 03 3626 9974
Access to Edo-Tokyo Museum
West exit of JR Ryogoku station (JR Sobu line)
Exit A3 of Ryogoku subway station (Toei Oedo line)
Edo-Tokyo Museum Map
Edo-Tokyo Museum, Ryogoku, Sumida ward, Tokyo
Eko-in Temple, less than five minutes walk south down Kokugikan-dori Avenue from the west exit of JR Ryogoku Station, has been the spiritual home of sumo since tournaments began being held here from 1768 until the first Ryogoku Kokugikan was built in 1909.
Before that they were held in Fukagawa, just a little further south in Koto ward. It is a spacious and beautifully landscaped temple with some exquisite statuary and unusual architecture.
Eko-in Temple dates from 1657, the year in which the Great Meireki Fire ('Meireki no Taika', AKA 'Furisode Kaji' or 'Maruyama Kaji') swept Tokyo for two days, destroying about two-thirds of the city and killing about 100,000.
The Shogun of the time, Ietsuna, wished to commemorate these victims, the majority of whom were not survived by family or relatives, and for that purpose set aside the land on which the temple now stands for their burial and erected a monument, Banninzuka, or 'The Mound of a Million Souls', to them.
It was around this that Eko-in temple was built. The temple has thus become a place where the victims of disasters and criminals, not survived or claimed by family or relatives, as well as animals, are laid to rest.
The original Banninzuka ('Mound of a Million Souls') monument of 1657 (see History above) is now graced with a modern, elegant statue of the Kannon Buddha since 2002.
Chikarazuka 'Mound of Strength' sumo monument & Mizuko-zuka, Eko-in Temple, Ryogoku
Through Eko-in Temple's torii archway and just to the left, only a few meters from the Banninzuka, is the Chikara-zuka, or 'Mound of Strength'.
The Chikarazuka was erected in 1937 as a gift from Sumo Association in recognition of the central historical role the temple has played in the sport.
It has become the object of veneration for new sumo initiates, who seek from it whatever extra power great helpings of chanko-nabe have yet been unable to bestow.
As mentioned above, Eko-in Temple has long been associated with the repose of the souls of animals, especially cats. This dates from the death of the beloved pet cat of the Shogun Ietsuna, who founded the temple, and which he had interred here.
Since that time several shrines to animals have been built on the premises. The most conspicuous is the The Hall for Prayers for the Souls of a Million Animals (Shodo-dobutsu-hyakumanto-ekodo), a tower that dominates the premises.
Across from the tower, next to the cemetery, is a bamboo grove with a collection of various tombs and monuments.
If you happen to have entered the temple from the southern entrance (through a small door in the big black metal gate), it will be on your right as you come in. Two of the more interesting sights in here are the Mizukozuka and the Nezumikozo (Jirokichi) Stone.
The Mizukozuka literally means the 'Mound of the Stillborn', and commemorates the souls of stillborn infants. It was constructed here in Eko-in Temple in 1793 at the order of a member of shogun's council of elders.
Mizukozuka is a memorable sight for the elegant pair of statues that flank its entranceway, for the rows and rows of tiny Buddhas that line either side of it, and also, in loud contrast to the ancient worn stone, the scores of children's gaudy plastic windmills set along its edges that turn in the breeze - piquant reminders, no doubt, of what would have been the children to play with them.
Nezumikozo (real name, Jirokichi) (1797-1832) was Japan's Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and powerful and giving to the poor. Nezumikozo translates something like 'Mouse-boy': a reference to his stealth.
In keeping with Eko-in Temple's dedication to those without family to mourn them, the chivalrous thief is commemorated here.
It is believed that rubbing the Nezumikozo Stone, usually with a pebble, and putting the dust-coated pebble in your wallet will give you a share of the luck that Nezumikozo enjoyed in going for years without being caught and contribute to your wishes coming true.
Tel: 03 3634 7776
Eko-in Temple Map
Just north of the Kokugikan is the Kyu-Yasuda Teien Garden.This elegant garden began as the grounds of a samurai residence in 1691. It was famed for its pond that was fed by the Sumida River which, being close to the sea, was affected by the tides, causing the water level in the pond to regularly change. Kyu-Yasuda Teien Garden is only a few minutes' walk from Ryogoku Station and from the Kokugikan, so is definitely worth a short visit if you are in Ryogoku. Read more about Kyu-Yasuda Teien Garden
A mural of Sumo wrestlers on the wall of the Kokugikan in Ryogoku, Tokyo
Not far from the north-east entrance of Kyu-Yasuda Teien Gardens is the fascinating Yokoami-cho Koen Park.
Yokoami-cho Koen Park is a wide, nicely laid out park created in 1930. The park has the Tokyo Metropolitan Hall of Repose (Tokyo-to Ireido), a large Buddhist temple-style hall with a 41m (134ft) three-story pagoda. Tokyo bought the plot from the army in 1922 and was developing it into a park when the Great Kanto Earthquake hit in 1923. Read more about Yokoamicho Park.
Ryogoku Station (JR Sobu Line) connects west with Asakusabashi, Akihabara and Ochanomizu stations.
Ryogoku Station (Toei Oedo subway line) is one stop north of Morishita and one stop south of Kuramae.
Flower Peace Monument & metal object melted in Great Kanto Earthquake, Yokoamicho Park, Tokyo