It was a long couple of years for puro and joshi wrestling fans as they waited for Japan to open their borders again, but now that travel has more or less returned to how it was before the pandemic fans can once more head over to see their favourites perform live.
If it is your first time the process can seem quite daunting, especially if you don’t speak Japanese. Thankfully, I selflessly made the trek over earlier this year in order to do the research for you, the reader. I attended these shows so that I could make your journey easier, and for no other reason.
Below you will find three helpful sections: how to get tickets, how to get to venues and then a section with assorted tips and tricks.
How To Get Tickets
The first thing you want to do once you decide which shows you want to attend is buy tickets. Whether you want to be front row ducking sweat or relaxing in the back, you’ll need to be able to get in first.
Unfortunately many Japanese ticketing services aren’t designed with international travellers in mind, and I don’t just mean not offering an English language page. Many will straight up require a Japanese address or phone number in order to sign up or buy a ticket. Without these, you won’t be able to advance any further.
Sometimes companies will be prepared for increased demand from outside the country – particularly around NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom event when foreign wrestling fans flood Japan. They might offer an alternative but still official way to buy tickets directly, so keep an eye on that. However the option to buy tickets year round from afar is very rare. Want to attend a random New Japan event in February? You won’t be able to just go through their ticketing service. Gatoh Move/ChocoPro are the rare exception with their ticketing service proving to be not only possible for foreigners, but quite easy (as if you needed any more reason to attend one of their shows).
Thankfully, there are other ways to go about acquiring a ticket, each with their mix of pros and cons.
1. Buy from a third party supplier
This is the most expensive option, but arguably the easiest way for an international traveller to guarantee tickets to a show. They will buy the ticket on your behalf and get them to you, for a fee.
From experience, Wrestle Inn recommends BuySumoTickets.com. While they might primarily work on helping foreigners get tickets for Sumo events (as the name would suggest) they are more than used to helping travelling pro wrestling fans get to their favourite shows, and are very easy to work with.
One of the big benefits is that they can ship the tickets directly to your hotel a day or two before you arrive, meaning getting your tickets is as easy as checking into your hotel. Or they can even ship the tickets directly to your home, so you have peace of mind that you have the tickets in hand before you jet off.
The downside is the added cost, which can rack up if you’re going to a lot of shows. Each ticket is marked-up, though there aren’t any hidden fees that you have to worry about, everything is up front and clear. For peace of mind and convenience there really isn’t a better option, especially if there are any concerns about the show selling out.
2. Contact the promotion to ‘reserve’ a ticket
This won’t be an option for every promotion, especially the bigger ones, however it is possible to ‘reserve’ a ticket directly with the wrestling promotion, then collect and pay for the ticket when you arrive at the show.
To do so, simply email or DM the promotion and ask if it is possible to reserve a ticket for a show. If they can do so, they’ll confirm your details and what ticket you want. Then all you need to do is arrive at the venue, let them know your name and then hand over the money.
It’s another easy way to go about getting tickets, but it won’t be an option with every show. Smaller promotions who tend to handle everything in house will be more likely to offer this option. But bare in mind that they may not be used to communicating in English – so it is best to keep your message short and simple, and maybe run it through DeepL to offer both Englsish and Japanese versions in the message.
It is rarer now, but sometimes you can contact the talent directly and ask to reserve through them. This can sometimes get them a small commission bonus as well, so it can be a nice way to support the performers. This used to be a bit more common, but due to problems with fans sometimes abusing open direct messaging functions it’s now a rarer occurence. Generally talent that offer this option will make it clear either in their social media bio or when promoting an event.
Promotions won’t explicitly state whether you can reserve tickets directly through them, so it is best to just ask. Again, big promotions like NJPW and STARDOM don’t offer this option anymore, however a group like PROMINENCE might.
3. Wait until you land in Japan and buy from a convenience store / on the day ticket
Thankfully the need for a Japanese address and phone number dissipates once you try and get a ticket in the country. Convenience Stores are everywhere in Japan and they offer more than just an easy way to grab a drink or a bite to eat.
You will often find a machine in the corner of a store that can be used to buy and print off tickets for sporting events and shows, as well as just about anything else you could need a ticket for. The look and style of this machine will change depending on which store you are in, but they are so numerous they should be an easy option for hungry wrestling fans.
Except for the fact the machines are only in Japanese.
While some machines will offer an English option (including the ATMs in the convenience stores), these ticketing machines do not. So to do this yourself, you will either need to be able to read Japanese or have a phone advanced enough to be able to read and translate text through the camera.
It is possible to ask a store worker for help, and many will do their best to assist you. However keep in mind you have no way of knowing how capable they will be in speaking English. You can make it easier by writing down what you need, potentially translating the question ahead of time, but it still might be a difficult exercise, especially if they need to ask questions during the process.
Also keep in mind that convenience stores are often very busy. If you are going to try this option, try to pick a time when the store is relatively quiet.
Alternatively, sometimes you can buy tickets from the venue on the day. This is much easier than worrying about the convenience store, and the vendor will be more prepared to assist you even if they don’t speak English.
The risk for both options, but especially the on-the-day option, is that you are banking on tickets still being available. Depending on the event tickets can sell out very quickly, especially good seats. If you aren’t worried about where you sit or aren’t sure if you will be attending ahead of time, it is a handy option.
One final thing to keep in mind, On-the-day tickets are sometimes slightly more expensive than those reserved ahead of time. It is not a huge price difference, but it is something to keep in mind. Do your research, make sure you can buy tickets on the day, and check when exactly the tickets become available. It might be a couple of hours before the start of the show.
4. Ask a friend in Japan to help
The final option is both the easiest and most difficult option. Having a friend in Japan (whether they like wrestling or not) who can buy the tickets on your behalf offers all the benefits of the third party option without the substantial additional fees.
The only real issue here is making that friend in the first place. You also might not want to lump 7 ticket requests on them, but as is always the way in life, knowing people in the right places is a huge benefit.
Getting To Venues In Tokyo
Below is a visual guide for how to get to most of the key venues within Tokyo via train. It is not an exhaustive list of every venue, but it covers the main places wrestling will take place while you are there. For venues that aren’t listed (or are outside of Tokyo) the main thing to keep in mind is that most locations will be situated relatively closely to a train station (at worse a bus stop in smaller cities). Train stations will have plenty of English and maps to help you find your way. If in doubt, do your research beforehand – Google Maps and Street View can take a lot of the pressure away, allowing you to see your surroundings ahead of time as you follow directions. The most difficult thing can be working out which exit to take from the train station.
Tokyo Dome / Korakuen Hall
Key Train Station: Suidobashi Station
Accessed by: Chuo-Sobu Line [JB] and the Toei Mita Subway Line [I] – Note that the following guide is only for those catching the Chuo-Sobu Line. The Subway line does not connect to this portion of the station, although reaching the venues from this line is not too complicated.
Two of the most important locations in puroresu can be found within 100 metres of each other, and as a result getting to either tends to follow the same pathway. It is also accessed by the incredible convenient Chuo Sobu Line, which runs through the middle of Tokyo connecting to stations like Shinjuku and Akihabara.
Step 1: When arriving by the Chuo-Sobu Line, take the West Exit and turn right after exiting the ticket gate (NOTE: when getting off the train, you will notice that Tokyo Dome is listed as a destination for both the East and West Exits. While you can reach both the Dome and Korakuen Hall from the East Exit, it is far easier from the West)
Step 2: As you leave the station, turn left past the Excelsior Caffé chain. Right after the coffee store you will see a bridge which leads to Tokyo Dome City, which is the name for the large space surrounding the Dome. Cross the bridge, and keep walking straight
Step 3: As you keep heading straight you will find yourself at a crossroads. Which path you take will depend on which location you’re going to. For Korakuen Hall, walk down the stairs (as indicated in yellow). For the Tokyo Dome, head up the stairs (as indicated in red). From this point you will also be able to see signage for both venues (5F on the encircled sign indicates Korakuen Hall)
Korakuen Hall: As you walk down the stairs you will be immediately greeted by this building on your left. To enter Korakuen Hall, walk into the entrance where the yellow arrow is. Either catch the lifts to the 5th floor, or take the stairs up (it is recommended to take the stairs down at least if you are capable, as you will see the walls inscribed with years worth of people attending wrestling and martial arts shows.)
If you need to buy tickets to the event on the day, you can do so at the ticketing booth shown in the yellow circle, though this may be dependent on the show you are attending. If you have reserved tickets directly with the promotion, you will likely be directed to pay and collect for them on the 5th floor in the space where you come out of the lifts, rather than this booth on the ground floor.
Tokyo Dome: After heading up the stairs, keep walking straight along the walkway and you will be greeted with the Big Egg. Entry from here will likely take place through the main entrance. (Note: If you accidentally head down the stairs to Korakuen Hall, don’t worry as there is a staircase further along that will take you back up to the Tokyo Dome).
Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall)
Key Train Station: Ryogoku
Accessed By: Chuo-Sobu Line [JB] and the Toei Oedo Line [E]
A regular ‘big venue’ location for some of the top promotions in Japan, Ryogoku Kokugikan might be a mouthful (just ask Mayu Iwatani) but getting there is very simple. The one thing to keep in mind is that ease of access will depend on which train you arrive on. The following guide is for the Chuo-Sobu Line. For the Toei Oedo Line (which may be more convenient if based in the popular district Asakusa) it is slightly further, but there is still signage guiding your way.
Step 1: From the West Exit, turn right and walk about 100 metres before you reach the venue. It will likely be visible as soon as you leave the West Exit, making this one of the easiest venues to find from the train station.
If coming from the Toei Oedo Line, you will need to walk about 500 metres, walking past the Tokyo Edo Museum. The easiest way is via Exit A3, turning left out of the station exit and then turning left again as soon as you can. This path will lead you towards an APA Hotel, and from here you should be able to see the top and back of Sumo Hall – then it is just a matter of walking around the building until you reach the front.
Key Train Station: Kudanshita Station
Accessed By: Toei Shinjuku Line [S], the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line [Z] and the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line [T]
The legendary Nippon Budokan might not host a lot of wrestling these days, but any show being held here is worthy of your attention. One of the biggest arenas in Tokyo for pro-wrestling, it also features one of the more beautiful walks from the train station. Kudanshita, serviced by 3 different lines, is easy to reach from key hubs like Shinjuku and Shibuya, and shouldn’t be more than one transfer away from many other places. Unlike some of the other stations listed here, no matter which train you catch to Kudanshita, they all use the same complex, making directions from here easy no matter where you are coming from.
Step 1: Take Exit 2, and as you reach the surface you will find yourself in front of a map, with directions to the Budokan conveniently signposted. Head straight from here.
Step 2: Take the first left you can, which will be a bridge that leads over the moat. You might not realise it, but you’re actually walking into part of the Imperial Palace grounds.
Step 3: As you cross the bridge, you will walk through the Tayasumon Gate. As you enter, you might be able to spot the top of the Nippon Budokan from above the walls and trees. Follow the path, which will take you right through the second part of the gate.
Step 4: As you exit the second gate, you will see the Nippon Budokan immediately to your left. Follow along the building until you reach the main entrance. There are some gardens nearby if you need to fill in time, but keep in mind much of the castle ruins and palace area is a fair distance from the Budokan.
Ichigaya Chocolate Square
Key Train Station: Ichigaya Station
Accessed By: JR Chuo-Sobu Line [JB], Yurakucho Line [Y], Namboku Line [N] and the Toei Shinjuku Line [T]
One of the wrestling shows you simply must attend while in Tokyo is a ChocoPro show, ran by the Gatoh Move team. While it might be on the first floor of a nondescript building block, it is nowhere near as difficult to reach as it might first seem. With four different trains stopping at Ichigaya station, including the ever important Chuo-Sobu line, you will have plenty of options to reach your destination.
Step 1: The most convenient station exit is via Exit 7. Head up the stairs and make an immediate U-turn. You will be heading towards an intersection with a bridge on one side. If you don’t use Exit 7, you will likely find yourself walking over that bridge in order to reach the intersection. Reaching Ichigaya Square from these other exits is not difficult, it is just that Exit 7 is a bit closer to the venue.
Step 2: When you reach the intersection you will be able to see the alley way you need to walk up. Look for the Mos Burger restaurant, which sits to the immediate right of the alley. Just cross the road and reach the alleyway.
Keep in mind that ChocoPro ask attendees to not wait directly outside of the venue since it is partially residential. There is an open space right next to the alley on the left with several vending machines which can make for a good waiting spot. They generally open their doors ten minutes prior to the show start.
Step 3: Walk up the alley way, and you will very quickly reach Ichigaya Square on the right. You can’t really miss it, as it is right before a gated area. The ‘Bouquets’ with supporter names and messages will likely be on the wall by the entrance, which will also help you find your way.
Shin-Kiba 1st Ring
Key Train Station: Shin-Kiba Station
Accessed By: Yurakucho Line [Y], Rinkai Line [R] and the Keiyo Line [JE]
A staple location of many smaller independent wrestling events, Shin-Kiba 1st Ring is a warehouse with a lot of charm, providing an intimate venue for pro-wrestling. It’s a little small for the bigger promotions, but there’s plenty of great action to be found out in the more eastern part of Tokyo.
Step 1: With just a single exit, you don’t have to worry about which way you’re leaving. As you exit the station, make an immediate U-Turn, hugging the wall past the various bus stops.
Step 2: After you walk past a Matsuya, a pathway will continue down, following the road on one side and the raised highway on the left. Walk down this pedestrian space. Across the road on your right you will see a several warehouses. The second entry point here will lead towards Shin-Kiba 1st Ring (don’t worry, it’s not far, less than 200 metres from the station).
Step 3: When you see the second entry point to these warehouses, cross the road and enter. You should be able to spot the roof and sign for Shin-Kiba 1st Ring as you enter.
Key Train Station: Shinjuku Station
Accessed By: Yamanote Line [JY], Chuo-Sobu Line [JB], Saikyo Line [JA], Shonan-Shinjuku Line [JS], Keio Line and Keio New Line [KO], Odakyu Odawara Line [OH], Toei Oedo Line [E], Toei Shinjuku Line [S] and the Tokyo Marunochi Line [M]
If an independent promotion isn’t running at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring, there’s a very real chance they’ll instead be running at Shinjuku FACE, especially to those unfamiliar with it. Right in the heart of the Shinjuku/Kabuchiko area, the nightlife is full on here ensuring that you will have plenty of entertainment before and after the show.
Keep in mind that Shinjuku Station is considered the busiest station in the world, and is a bit of a labyrinth, especially if you are unfamiliar with this behemoth of a station. Although reaching Shinjuku FACE is relatively simple, it is worth keeping in mind that due to the density of people and the somewhat confusing nature of the station for visitors, it is best allowing a bit of extra time to find your way.
Step 1: There are a LOT of exits out of Shinjuku Station, but the key direction to keep in mind is East. If you follow the signs for the East Exit, then you will be alright, but any exit for Kabuchiko will also put you in the right general area.
Step 2: From the East Exit Square (which is a popular spot for buskers or as a general meeting place) walk towards the intersection and look to cross the street. A bright red Izakaya restaurant sits on the right, while on the left corner you can see a ‘3D’ advertisement screen which will periodically show a large cat. Walk down the pedestrian path between these two locations.
Step 3: Keep walking down this pedestrian street until you reach the next large intersection. You will want to cross and keep walking straight. To make things easier, look for the large Don Quijote store. You will walk through the illuminated signposts (seen in the picture as blue, but will often be different colours) down Godzilla Road. Why is it known as Godzilla Road?
Step 4: Because of the large Godzilla head reaching out from the Tobu Cinema Building! There is also a hotel here where you can stay in rooms that overlook the head if you so wish. Walk towards Godzilla until you reach the building.
Step 5: When you reach the T-Junction, you will want to turn left, and then take the first right, essentially keeping the Godzilla head and the building on your right shoulder.
Step 6: Walking down this main road, you will notice the large HUMAX Building on your left. This is your target, as Shinjuku FACE is located on the 7th floor of this building.
What you want to do is reach the corner of this building (where the circle is) and find the elevators which sit just on the other side of this façade. Catch the lifts up to the 7th floor and they will open up to the bar and entrance point for FACE.
Note: If you keep walking along the HUMAX Building, you will notice another entrance to Shinjuku FACE through these doors. This is the entrance for staff, and you while you can catch the lifts up to the right floor, you won’t be able to go any further. If you walk in here you will notice some signage with directions showing you to the right lifts – however these are in Japanese. Remember to catch the lifts on the corner of the building.
Additional Tips and Tricks
- The most valuable site for any person looking to see live wrestling in Japan is the puwota schedule. It is an online calendar that keeps track of nearly every show taking place in Japan, and it is in English to boot! It’s the perfect way to hunt down shows, especially if you are looking to see something outside of your usual tastes. It is an invaluable tool whether it’s your first trip or if you are an old hand.
- If you are looking to get some personalised autographs while at shows, show them your name rather than telling them. Some names can be difficult to spell for native speakers, let alone for those who aren’t as confident in the language or while also trying to deal with accents (and background noise). The best way is to write it in the notes section of your phone, and then show them. That way even wrestlers who struggle with English can just copy it.
- Along with autographed promo photos, another popular merchandise option is to get a photo with talent. This is known as a “Two-Shot”, and will either be taken on your phone or with an instant camera by a staff member assisting in the process. Sometimes you will have a choice, sometimes you won’t. One thing to keep in mind, is if you get it taken on an instant camera (the photo being known as a “Cheki”) you can then get that photo signed and personalised by the talent. It makes a great momento, though if you are wanting to post the photo on Social Media a phone photo might work better. This won’t be offered at every show, and generally you need to pre-buy the Two Shot at merch stands. They will then give you a ticket which you hand over before getting your photo. These typically take place after a show, and it’s best to just keep your ears and eyes open for when these take place. Announcements will be made in Japanese, so you need to be fairly aware of what is going on.
- Merchandising varies wildly depending on the show and the promotion. For example, STARDOM will close their merch stands well before a show finishes, so make sure you get what you want straight away. At other shows you might want to wait so you can buy directly from the talent. Be prepared to get their early and scout out what the situation is. At shows where talent are selling merchandise, sometimes they aren’t all available at once. Main event talent might only be available before the show, since they can prepare for their match while the event is running but will be recovering straight after. There is no hard or fast rule here.
- Keep in mind that there are certain rules and etiquettes to attending wrestling shows in Japan that might be different than what you are used to. Masks might still be required while at a show (this is often up to the venue and not the promotion) so have one ready just in case. Photography is generally encouraged, but taking video is often not allowed. Standing up and cheering is generally discouraged as it blocks the view of those behind you, though you might have to stand up and get out of the way if the action is about to come your way! In this case, keep an eye on the wrestlers assisting at ringside. They will signal for you to move, and sometimes begin to congregate in one place ahead of a big spot. Be sure to follow their instructions so the wrestlers can do their thing!
- Remember that cash is still king in Japan. While some venues might support credit card, it always pays to have some physical yen on you, especially when attending shows. A place is more likely to be cash only than it is card only.
Planning your first trip to Japan can be quite daunting, even before you start factoring in attending wrestling shows. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be too difficult. Even if the ticketing systems are a little problematic for interested foreigners, there are plenty of ways around it to ensure that you can make your trip a memorable one filled with the right kind of excitement and action!
Above is just the basics for getting to shows, but there’s more to Tokyo than just the wrestling matches. All over the city you’ll find stores, bars and restaurants connected to the pro-wrestling scene. In part two, we’ll cover the places you need to include on your Tokyo wrestling itinerary.