Sumo wrestling is a big part of Japanese culture and is actually Japan’s national sport. If you have a ‘Japan Bucket List’ of any description, then watching a bit of sumo is likely to be on there.
Of course, the ideal scenario would be to get tickets for a tournament. There are three main tournaments in Tokyo every year, held in January, May and September. But what if you happen to visit Japan outside of these three months?
My answer is – visit a sumo stable.
Sumo stables are where the wrestlers live and train together, and you can go along and watch their morning practice. It’s not really touted as a tourist attraction as such but we went along to one and were able to watch the wrestlers through the window.
We went to the Arashio-beya which is around a minutes walk from the A2 exit of Hamacho Station on the Toei Subway Shinjuku Line. Practice takes place between 7.30am and 10am. Their website does have a Japanese script and a phone number to call so you can check in advance if the practice is on the next day, which I did but unfortunately I couldn’t understand the response despite following the script! I can’t remember if we asked our hotel to call on our behalf or just showed up but it all worked out ok.
You’re unlikely to stay and watch the full length of training as it can feel a little crowded by the window standing among the wrestler’s bicycles and other gawping tourists, but it’s definitely worth stopping by for the experience.
8 things to do in and around Queenstown New Zealand
Queenstown is a must-do on anyone’s South Island itinerary, after all its not the adventure capital of New Zealand for nothing! Of course, there are TONS of things to do there, but here are 8 of my recommendations…
1. Ride the gondola
Although Queenstown is famed for its fun and adventure, lets not forget that this is New Zealand, meaning that it is also quite pretty. The best way to take advantage of all that scenic beauty is to ride the gondola, which is STEEP (it’s actually the steepest cable car lift in the Southern hemisphere!) but so worth it when you reach the top and take in those gorgeous views.
2. Have fun on the luge
Once you’ve ridden the gondola up to Bob’s Peak, you may as well enjoy some of the activities on offer up there. My recommendation is the luge – so much fun! You take a chair lift up even higher and then pick one of the two luge tracks to travel back down. There’s a more gentle, scenic track which everyone must do on their first ride and then there’s also a faster paced, steeper track. We ended up riding the luge 5 times!
3. Try a famous Fergburger
If you read my post about 3 fast food burgers you must try in New Zealand then you will already know about Fergburger. Although to be fair, you probably already know about Fergburger because literally anyone who has been to Queenstown has raved about this place. It’s not really “fast food” as you’ll probably be queuing about 45 minutes for it but it’s still worth trying at least once. Or twice in my case.
4. Go horseriding
45 minutes drive from Queenstown is the town of Glenorchy, home to Dart Stables where we admired yet more of New Zealand’s beauty but on horse back. We did the beginners trek named Hobbit’s Hack and saw where some of Lord of the Rings was filmed. I can’t claim to be a LOTR fan but I did enjoy the scenery.
5. Spin and splash on the Shotover Jet
The Shotover Jet is quite simply, a jet boat ride on the Shotover River. Running since 1965, they are the only company permitted to operate within the Shotover River’s canyons. High speeds and 360 spins are guaranteed – you might even see rainbows in the mist!
6. Bungy jump
So I have a small confession to make… I didn’t actually do a bungy jump because I don’t have that part of my brain that makes me want to pay $195 to tie a rubber band to my legs and throw myself off a bridge. However, my husband is a bit of a secret adrenalin junkie and did the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge jump in Queenstown – the world’s first commercial bungy jump.
He loved it and wouldn’t let me write this list without including it!
7. Visit wonderful Wanaka
We only spent one day in Wanaka which really wasn’t enough. It was pretty and peaceful and we enjoyed a lovely lunch by the lake. It’s also home to two fabulously quirky attractions – Puzzling World and Cinema Paradiso. If you want to know a bit more about Wanaka then take a look at my post Quirky things to do in wonderful Wanaka.
8. Take a day trip to Milford Sound
I admit this might be an odd choice given that my trip to Milford Sound was my worst day travelling but I know other people who have been there and had a great time. I can’t say more than that. Go read my post Milford Sound – is it worth it? and decide for yourself on this one.
Have you been to Queenstown? What was your favourite thing to do? Comment below. And for more inspiration, follow my New Zealand Pinterest Board.
New Zealand is home to many adrenalin-fuelled activities, so I couldn’t very well leave without doing something. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not the sporty type, something usually goes wrong and I end up hurting or embarrassing myself in some way, shape or form – I have scars to prove it!
Anyway, we were planning on visiting the glowworm caves in Waitomo (seeing glowworms – basically anything to do with animals and nature is much more my thing than extreme sports). You can take a leisurely boat ride through the caves and marvel at the glowworms shining above you, like stars in the night sky. Beautiful.
My husband, however, much more of a daredevil than me, decides he would rather do Black Water Rafting instead – basically sitting in a wet suit on a rubber ring and then climbing through the caves and jumping off waterfalls. Fun, right? I guess we could have gone our separate ways here, no one pressured me into saying yes, but either way I felt like I would be missing out on something so I just did it.
We were booked in for the 8.15am tour – on a non-work day I’m not even dressed at 8.15am let alone pulling myself into a cold and wet wetsuit at that time of the morning! Anyway, we had to fill out some liability forms. I was alright on the physical health side but when asked – do you have any difficulties swimming? I had to tick yes. I am a weak swimmer. I blame my school. And do you have any phobias? Actually I’m a bit claustrophobic to be honest with you, I like to know where my nearest exits are and I’m pretty sure I would never go pot holing (crawling through a cave where you can’t stand or turn around). When the guide read through my form she must have wondered what the hell I was doing there, but in my defence, if they didn’t want phobic people on the tours, they should say from the off.
They packed us up in a little bus and took us to a creek to do a practice jump for jumping off of the waterfalls. We met our second guide who explained we needed to jump backwards with the tube held at our backsides to ensure a correct landing. That jump was at least 2-3 metres high! I didn’t think I was scared of heights but maybe I am? Just as I was ready to wimp out completely, the guide moved to the next much lower platform, he was only joking about that tall one!
Ha. Ha. Hilarious.
So I did the jump. I didn’t die. However, when disembarking my tube I lost grip and it went floating down the creek.
Injuries = none
Embarrassments = one
Luckily, my hero hubby jumped in and got my tube for me to save further embarrassment.
Then it was cave time, climbing and floating, at the deepest point we were 65 metres underground. There were 2 waterfall jumps – not as scary as I had anticipated. And we saw glowworms! The best part was when we were in a chain (what the guides refer to as the ‘eel’) each person holding on to the person behind’s feet as they rested either side of your tube. We then floated along in the darkness gazing up at the glowworms above.
Soon our cave adventure was drawing to an end and I was feeling quite proud that I hadn’t fallen off my tube, slipped over on a rock or got myself wedged in a stalactite or anything. Our last part of the cave tour was to turn off the torches on our helmets and then find our way out in the dark. Fortunately, even though our head torches were off, there were little red lights at the back of each helmet so I could follow the red lights of the rest of the group to find my way out. Of course the glowworms are meant to guide the way but I was too busy trying to keep up with the group to remember to look at the glowworms.
I started somewhere in the middle of the pack yet I somehow ended up at the back and when I lost all those red lights, panic set in. I was in pitch black, in a cave, floating in water, no idea of my surrounding or how much further the exit was. I almost had a full-on panic attack.
I then saw the light at the end of the tunnel, quite literally. I slowly made my way out of the cave to the light of day. I made it! And I didn’t knock myself out on the massive stalactite hanging down as low as my head right before the exit of the cave – who put that there?!
I then realised that my knuckle was bleeding but for me, that’s pretty good going.
Injuries = one (minor)
Embarrassments = one (pre-cave)
Afterwards my husband said that Black Water Rafting was alot more challenging than he had expected, whereas I had found the opposite to be true, I feared the worst and surprised myself.
And believe it or not, that wasn’t our only cold, wet, glowworm cave adventure. When we arrived in Franz Josef, the manager at the hostel we were staying at told us about a few different walks we could take, one being the Tatare Tunnels Walk – a 40 minute walk to a narrow cave where you walk ankle deep through freezing cold water to see the glowworms inside.
So after a mostly uphill hike, we arrived at the cave entrance, removed our socks and trainers, and donned the only waterproof footwear we had – flipflops (or thongs/jandals if you’re Aussie/Kiwi). The cave was fairly narrow but tall enough to walk through. I’m not sure how far we walked but after seeing only 5 glowworms and only 3 other people in the cave, we decided it was mad going caving in flipflops with tiny torches that looked like they came out of a Christmas cracker! So we exited as fast as our frozen feet would take us.
Clearly we have both seen one too many scary movies, as we admitted to each other on the walk back (another 40 minutes in the rain!) that we had overactive imaginations about what might be lurking in that cave (besides glowworms) and what if we got trapped. That’s the creative mind for ya!
AAAND I think that’s enough cave-related activities for one trip!
I’m glad I did it but never again. How about you? What crazy things have you done that you would never repeat?
Black water rafting photos: Our guides at The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.
Tatare Tunnels photos: my own