©iStock/SeanPavonePhoto
©iStock/SeanPavonePhoto

Sumida Ward: where Edo meets modern Tokyo

4 minutes to read

Sumida Ward is located in the northeast of Tokyo, where Edo uniquely meets modern Tokyo. The contrast between historical and modern in Sumida is fascinating. Sumida is known as "shitamachi" which literally means "old town". For instance, one of its neighbourhoods - Ryogoku has Japan’s oldest and biggest sumo district, traditional bathhouses, narrow streets with nostalgic shops, and traditional gardens. Sumida Ward is also home to a cherry blossom viewing area along the Sumida River.  All of these are the great elements of a typical shitamachi atmosphere. On the other hand, in Sumida one can find Tokyo SkyTree, the world’s tallest self-supporting tower, opened in 2012. At the base of SkyTree is located another modern attraction of the area - Tokyo Soramachi, one of the largest commercial complexes in Tokyo which includes more than 300 shops, an aquarium and planetarium. Sumida Ward offers an incredible blend of historical sites and modern-day sightseeing spots, and no other area in Tokyo can compete with Sumida.

Ryogoku Kokugikan, the sumo district

© iStock/Martin Leitch
© iStock/Martin Leitch

Ryogoku Kokugikan was first built in 1909 because no permanent building could stably hold sumo wrestling tournaments. The current Ryogoku Kokugikan was built in 1984 with a total construction cost of 15 billion yen and has been used as a sacred place for sumo wrestling since January 1985. Here, sumo tournaments are held three times a year in January, May and September. The length of each sumo tournament is 14 days. If you are interested in spectating the powerful sumo wrestling live, it is necessary to book a ticket online in advance. The tickets' costs vary from 1600 yen to 20,000 yen, depending on how far it is from the ring. At the front entrance of the Ryogoku Kokugikan, there are paintings depicting old sumo wrestling tournaments and a championship cup, so even those who are not very familiar with sumo can get a glimpse of history. There are also shops, restaurants, and even a chanko nabe (traditional sumo wrestlers’ food) shop. If you visit Ryogoku Kokugikan on the day when there is no sumo tournament, you can still visit a sumo museum.  

Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo
Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo
1-chōme-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida City, Tokyo 130-0015, Japan

Cherry blossoms, fireworks, and a river cruise on Sumida River

© iStock/dreamnikon
© iStock/dreamnikon

Sumida River is 23.5 km long is one of the most familiar rivers in Tokyo. It flows through central Tokyo and into Tokyo bay. The river's stretch that gets the most tourist traffic is between Taito Ward where Asakusa is located and Sumida Ward. The Sumida River bank in Sumida Ward is perfect for cycling or just chilling, but it gets very busy twice a year. It has popular spots for cherry blossom viewing in early spring and Sumida River annual firework festival, the oldest firework festival in Japan, which takes place in August and attracts approximately 950,000 spectators.

© iStock/Torsakarin
© iStock/Torsakarin

You can enjoy Sumida Ward also from the river on a cruise which is a sightseeing waterbus. The pier for the boarding on this cruise is located on the Asakusa side of Sumida River. The view of Tokyo's big metropolitan city from the calm river cruise will offer you a relaxing sightseeing experience.

Tokyo cruise, Asakusa pier, Tokyo
Tokyo cruise, Asakusa pier, Tokyo
1 Chome-1 Hanakawado, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0033, Japan

SkyTree and Soramachi, the Sky Town

© iStock/Juan Carlos Hernández Hernández
© iStock/Juan Carlos Hernández Hernández

Tokyo SkyTree is the world's tallest self-supporting radio tower with a height of 634 m, and you can enjoy a beautiful view overlooking Tokyo from the Tenbo Deck located at the height of 350 m. Currently, it is the tallest building in Japan. From Tenbo Deck of Tokyo SkyTree, you can enjoy a vast view overlooking the entire Kanto area. The view from the top and looking up SkyTree is highly recommended as you will be impressed by the tower's unique architectural design. At the feet of SkyTree, there is a huge commercial complex called Tokyo Soramachi, which literally means a sky town. It is a popular hung out spot for SkyTree visitors. You can enjoy various genres of shopping to gourmet food, impressively educational aquarium and planetarium. As one of the main Tokyo’s landmarks, many people have visited it from all around Japan and abroad.

Tokyo SkyTree
Tokyo SkyTree

Tamon-ji temple with 7 lucky gods

© iStock/Kuremo
© iStock/Kuremo

Tamon-ji Temple was founded during the Heian period (957-60) and is located at the northernmost tip of the ward, only 10 minutes walk away from Tokyo SkyTree. Since it was not affected by the Great Kanto earthquake or WWII, it is one of the few temples that retain the old days' remnants. The road in front of the temple is also an ancient remnant. In particular, the temple is the oldest remaining building from the Edo period and the only wooden structure in Sumida Ward. It was burnt down in 1718, and the current one was rebuilt after that. You can see the seven lucky gods at Temon-ji temple, which is very unusual to be enshrined together.  Since there is a tradition related to raccoon dogs (Tanuki), Tamon-ji has also been called "Tanuki-ji".

Tamon-ji Temple, Sumida, Tokyo
Tamon-ji Temple, Sumida, Tokyo
5-chōme-31-13 Sumida, Sumida City, Tokyo 131-0031, Japan

Compared to other parts of Tokyo, Sumida Ward’s coexistence of Edo and modern Tokyo is unique and conveniently located for overseas visitors. It is particularly attractive to history lovers and architecture admirers, but it also offers plenty of shopping and gastronomical opportunities. If you are in Tokyo, Sumida Ward tour is highly recommended. It will be a different Tokyo experience with ample Instagramable chances.


The author

Mayo Harry

Mayo Harry

Hi, I am Mayo from Japan. Travelling around the world and Japan since my late teens, my life has been a continuation of trips. I am excited to share my knowledge and experiences of Japan with all of you.

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