Do you know about the Sumida Ward in Tokyo? It is one of the 23 wards of Tokyo, with various unique neighbourhoods and areas, along with different things to do and sights to see. If you are wondering what is Sumida ward, the different areas inside Sumida, best things to do, history, accommodation and more, check out this ultimate Sumida ward area guide.
What is Sumida City Ward
Before the construction of Tokyo Sky Tree, which is now a world-famous tourist attraction, Sumida was a suburb across the river from Asakusa, and was known as a sightseeing spot behind the “Tamanoi,” a private brothel that existed from prewar times until 1958. It was a place that was known as a “backstreet tourist spot,” and was a place that was nothing more than a local downtown that did not accept strangers.
In the prewar period, craftsmen and factories moved across the Sumida River from Asakusa, which had already become too cramped, and settled in the area, which is downtown in nature.
Most of the area is located along the river in a zone with an elevation of zero meters above sea level. There are many old-fashioned wooden houses and Showa-era apartment complexes, and the gruffness characteristic of downtown has been passed down from generation to generation, but the atmosphere of the town is gradually changing as celebrities with mistaken perceptions move into tower apartments built around Hikifune after the Sky Tree was completed.
Living in Sumida City Ward
Sumida City has now become a major tourist destination with the Sky Tree soaring above the city, but it was originally a local and closed-off area where old-fashioned downtown residents lived. On the other hand, there is even a certain bakery that hates such tourists and is furious if they even raise their cameras.
Kinshicho area has large malls such as Arca-Kit and Olinas, where today’s families gather, but all other areas are behind the times, and the number of elderly people and welfare recipients is the same as in the surrounding Taito, Edogawa, and Katsushika wards.
Another characteristic of Sumida Ward is that there are many Showa-era restaurants that serve delicious “snack monja” that are not priced at tourist spots, but rather are aimed at the local people. The real monjayaki is not in Tsukishima, but in Sumida. The shopping streets in the city are for the elderly, and stores close unusually early. This is probably because this is a place where craftsmen in work clothes live rather than businessmen in suits.
History of Sumida City Ward
Sumida-ku was created on March 15, 1947, when Mukojima-ku in the northern area and Honjo-ku in the southern area were combined into one ward.
At that time, the new ward was named “Sumida-ku. The name “Sumida-ku” was chosen from two Chinese characters: “sumi” for the name of the Sumida River embankment, which has been widely known and loved by people since ancient times, and “ta” for the name of the Sumida River.
Geographically, it occupies a part of the Koto Delta in the eastern part of Tokyo. To the west, it borders Chuo, Taito, and Arakawa wards across the Sumida River; to the north and east, it borders Adachi, Katsushika, and Edogawa wards along the former Ayase, Arakawa, and Nakagawa Rivers; and to the east and south, it borders Kitajuma, Yokojuma, and Tate Rivers, with a part of the land extending into Koto Ward.
Around 6,000 B.C., when human history began, Sumida was still at the bottom of the sea. Over a long period of time, however, an inlet began to form in the northern part of Tokyo Bay, and the land was created when sediments carried by several rivers, including those fed by the Chichibu Mountain Range, the Mikuni Mountain Range, and the Nikko Mountain Range, were deposited at the mouths of the rivers. This was the foundation of Sumida Ward.
In the 12th century, the Kasai and Edo clans, who followed the Minamoto clan, ruled the Mukojima area. Later, the area was embroiled in warfare, but when the Hojo clan of Odawara came to power in the 16th century, it was developed as a fiefdom of their vassals and developed into a farming area.
The development of the southern part of the marshy area was triggered by the Furisode Fire of Meireki 3 (1657). Edo was almost completely destroyed and more than 100,000 people lost their lives. The shogunate buried those who burned to death in the southern part of Ushijima and built a kaigo-in temple. In 1659, the shogunate built the Ryogoku Bridge across the Sumida River and constructed firebreaks and firebreaks throughout the city.
In accordance with this fire prevention plan, samurai residences were chosen to be relocated to what is now Honjo, in the southern part of Sumida Ward. The Honjo Magistrate and other officials opened the Tategawa River, the Oyokogawa River, and the Nanboku Wari Sewer, as well as cleared the area, and as a result, the area became a city mainly consisting of samurai residences and became a part of Edo. In 1702, the Ako Ronin attacked the Kira residence and avenged their lord’s death, creating a sensation.
Meanwhile, the northern part of the city has remained a farming area and continues to serve as a food supply for the citizens of Edo.
The cherry blossoms of Sumizutsumi, fireworks on the Sumida River, and sumo wrestling in Ryogoku, which are still popular throughout the country, were born during this period. Sumida suffered from floods, including the three major floods in Edo, but during the Bunka-Bunsei period (1818-1830), Sumida became a popular vacation spot and was the stage for kabuki and rakugo (comic monologue) performances.
During the Meiji period (1868-1912), which marked the formation of modern Japan, Sumida also began to play a new role as a part of the new capital city of Tokyo. In 1878, the southern part of the city became Honjo Ward, and the northern part was incorporated into Minamikatsushika County. At that time, daily necessities such as roof tiles, hair accessories, and candles were produced in the southern part of the city, while agricultural products were produced in the northern part. However, due to its favourable location surrounded by rivers and labour conditions, the area gradually became an industrial zone. In the Taisho period (1912-1926), toy manufacturing and the rubber industry for exportation developed in the area.
Meanwhile, in terms of transportation, the current Sobu Line was introduced for the first time in 1894, and the transportation network was opened one after another.
However, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 destroyed more than 90% of the Honjo area, leaving a total of 48,000 people burnt to death, more than 80% of the total population of Tokyo. In 1932, Mukojima Ward was established in the northern part of the city where reconstruction and urbanization had progressed, but 70% of Sumida was again reduced to ruins by the fires of World War II, resulting in 63,000 casualties and nearly 300,000 people affected by the disaster.
Areas in Sumida City Ward
JR Sobu Line and Toei Shinjuku Line
This is the capital of Sumida Ward and a place where Chiba residents can get used to the atmosphere of the big city of Tokyo. Recently, the number of trendy stores has been increasing due to the opening of the Hanzomon Line, which makes it possible to go to Shibuya with a single train, but Derby Street and Hanadan-gai at the south exit still have an underworld aspect.
Sumo wrestlers’ town facing the Sumida River. The Ryogoku Kokugikan is well known. This was the first station on the Sobu Line, and the structure of the station building evokes a sense of history. The Tokyo Metropolitan Cenotaph in Yokoamicho Park, which enshrines the victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Tokyo Air Raid, and the bubbly, gigantic Edo Tokyo Museum are also very impressive.
This is the only area along the Toei Shinjuku Line that is part of Sumida Ward. The area around the station is not very distinctive, but it is close to Morishita 3-chome and the business hotel district of the former Takahashi Doya-gai.
Toei Asakusa Line and Keisei Oshiage Line
Honjo Azuma-bashi Bridge 本所吾妻橋
Across the Azuma-bashi Bridge in Asakusa. The towering Asahi Breweries building, commonly known as the “poop building,” attracts the laughter of foreign tourists. The Sumida Ward Office is also located next to the building, making it an administrative centre. The area is on the way from Asakusa to Sky Tree, and the number of stores catering to tourists is rapidly increasing.
The downtown character cannot be hidden. The construction of the Skytree has completely wiped out the very austere Showa shopping street in front of the station, but you can enjoy the contrast between the wooden barracks that are unique to downtown and the Skytree that still remains at the foot of the street.
The area between the Tobu Isezaki Line and Keisei Oshiage Line stations has been redeveloped for its proximity to the Sky Tree, and luxury townhouses have been built for the benefit of mistaken residents, but in fact they are UR rental housing. Get off at this station to visit Mukojima Hanamachi, a postwar red-light pigeon town, and Kyojima, where the prewar downtown scenery remains.
Keisei Yahiro 京成八広
The name “Yahiro” comes from “eight,” which means the end of a long road. This station is the nearest station to the oil and fat industrial area, one of the leading pig leather tanneries in Japan. There are factories with blue tin roofs and smokestacks, a Korean school, and a monument along the Arakawa River to Koreans who were supposedly killed in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake.
Tobu Skytree Line
Tokyo Sky Tree とうきょうスカイツリー
The Sky Tree, one of the world’s tallest radio towers, stands on the site of a former freight station adjacent to the former Tobu Railway headquarters.
The old station name “Tamanoi” was the name of a former red-light district, and the name was changed to the current one because it gave a bad impression.
It is famous for Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens and the Tobu Museum, which is a delight for railway enthusiasts. The old cafes that used to stand at the site of Tamanoi on the red line have long since disappeared, and the area has lost much of its charm.
The northernmost point of Sumida Ward. Kanegafuchi is the place where Kanebo, a Japanese spinning company, was founded. The area around the station is an old downtown scene that survived the war.
The area around the station is an old downtown scene that was spared from war damage, and is filled with factories and wooden apartments. The mammoth Shirahige Disaster Prevention Complex, a Great Wall-like complex built along the Sumida River in preparation for the risk of fire, is the highlight of the area.
Tobu Kameido Line
The nearest station to the Kao Tokyo Plant, the soap, detergent, and chemical manufacturer that everyone knows, located in Sumida Ward along the Tobu Kameido Line. The Kirakira Tachibana shopping district is within walking distance. As one would expect from Komurai, omelette rice is available at a Western-style restaurant in front of the station.
Higashi Azuma 東あずま
This station is located east of the former Azuma Town. A local hip-hop group sings a song called “Danchi Song,” which is sung by DOPE, a local hip-hop group that promotes the downtown area on the outskirts of Sumida Ward.
What to do in Sumida City Ward
Tokyo Skytree 東京スカイツリー
Located in Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, this 634-meter-high radio tower is equipped with an observation deck. Opened in 2012, it is a new symbol of Tokyo. There are two observation decks: the TEMBO DECK, 350 m above ground level, and the TEMBO Kairo. The TEMBO Kairo has a tube-shaped glass wall that allows visitors to enjoy a walk in the air while viewing the daytime and nighttime views of Tokyo. At the foot of the tower are restaurants, shopping malls, and other facilities, which together are known as “Tokyo Skytree Town”.
Sumida Aquarium すみだ水族館
Sumida aquarium is located on the 5th and 6th floors of Tokyo Solamachi in Tokyo Skytree Town. The aquarium has become a topic of conversation for its exhibitions that overturn the existing image of an aquarium, such as the Tokyo Large Aquarium, which reproduces the waters of the Ogasawara Islands, a World Natural Heritage site; the Edo-Lium, which displays goldfish in a fantastic Japanese-style space; and the Aqualabo, where visitors can watch breeding staff conduct research and breeding of jellyfish.
The penguin exhibit, in which penguins swim spontaneously in the largest pool tank in Japan for an open-air indoor aquarium, is very popular.
Tokyo Solamachi 東京ソラマチ
Located in Tokyo Skytree Town, a popular spot with more than 300 stores and diverse facilities, including a shopping district, food market, restaurants, aquarium, and planetarium, Solamachi Dining Sky Tree View on the 30th and 31st floors offers restaurants with a great view, and is recommended for anniversaries and dates. The “Solamachi Dining Sky Tree View” on the 30th and 31st floors is recommended for anniversaries and date night. The Pokemon Center and Tomica Shop are also available for families to enjoy.
Ryogoku Kokugikan National Sumo Stadium 国技館
The Ryogoku Kokugikan, also known as the Ryogoku Kokugikan, is widely known for its sumo tournaments, with a capacity of more than 10,000 people and a variety of other events such as professional wrestling, boxing, and concerts. At the store, original goods such as sweets featuring sumo wrestlers are available for purchase even when the main sumo tournament is not being held.
At the Sumo Museum, which is located next to the main sumo hall, visitors can view nishiki-e (woodblock prints), keshomawashi (ceremonial ropes), and photos of past yokozuna (sumo grand champions).
Tobu Museum 東武博物館
The Tobu Museum opened in 1989 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Tobu Railroad’s founding. Visitors can learn about Tobu Railroad through exhibits of actual rolling stock, including steam locomotives, and hands-on exhibits such as simulators. There is also a corner where visitors can observe a Tobu Skytree Line train running right above the museum from a close distance.
Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens 向島百花園
The park was originally a private garden built in the Bunka-Bunsei period (early 19th century) of the Edo period. It was donated to the then City of Tokyo in the early Showa period. The park is home to approximately 230 species of plants, including ume, a specialty of the park since its opening, and a variety of flowers bloom in each of the four seasons. It is also designated as a national place of scenic beauty.
Tobacco & Salt Museum たばこと塩の博物館
Tobacco & Salt Museum collects and exhibits materials related to the history and culture of tobacco and salt, which used to be monopolized products. The third floor introduces tobacco, which was born in the Americas and spread around the world, and exhibits materials related to tobacco culture in the Edo period.
The second floor is a floor where visitors can learn about the history and knowledge of salt through exhibits and quizzes. Several times a year, the museum holds special exhibitions on a wide range of themes not limited to tobacco and salt.
Postal Museum Japan 郵政博物館
Postal Museum Japan is located on the 9th floor of Solamachi in Tokyo Skytree Town, this museum is dedicated to postal services. Under the concept of “connect with your heart, connect with the world,” the museum exhibits approximately 400 items, including 330,000 types of stamps and other materials, the largest collection of its kind in Japan.
The museum has several zones, including a permanent exhibition zone that introduces the history of postal service in seven sections. There are also many hands-on, experiential contents. To commemorate your visit, you can write a letter to the Skytree-shaped mailbox, which will be stamped with the date and a view of the Skytree.
Ushijima Shrine 牛嶋神社
Ushijima Shrine is located in Sumida Park. It was founded in 860 (Jougan 2) with Susano-no-mikoto as its deities. Currently, three deities are enshrined at the shrine. The “Nadegyu” in the shrine grounds is believed to cure illnesses by touching the same part of the body as the one that is ill. On the last day of the annual festival in September, a joint parade of portable shrines is held by the shrine parishioners of each town.
Edo-Tokyo Museum 江戸東京博物館
The museum is located near Ryogoku Kokugikan. The museum’s permanent exhibition halls, which open onto the fifth and sixth floors, feature a life-size reconstruction of the Nihonbashi Bridge, which was built in the Kan’ei period (1615-1644). The town layout centring on Edo Castle, including the Kan’ei Period merchant quarters and daimyo residences, as well as the Edo Castle Palace at the end of the Edo period, are reproduced. Many foreign tourists visit the facility to enjoy and learn about the city and culture of Edo Tokyo and the lives of its people.
Mimeguri-jinja Shrine 三圍神社
This shrine is located in Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, and enshrines Uganomitama no Mikoto, the chief deity of the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine in Kyoto. The shrine has been worshipped as the guardian shrine of the Mitsui family and the Mitsui Group since the Edo period (1603-1868).
There are many stone statues and monuments dedicated by the Mitsui family on the shrine grounds, including a stone statue of a white fox with “Mukoten” written on its pedestal. Even today, the Mitsui Group holds an annual festival four times a year.
Nippon Origami 東京おりがみミュージアム
The Tokyo Origami Museum is an origami exhibition facility located in Honjo, Sumida-ku, Tokyo. In addition to a permanent exhibition of origami works, the museum offers origami classes and has a collection of origami-related books and other materials. The museum also sells magazines and books, including those published by the Japan Origami Association, as well as origami paper.
Mukojimabshi Ginza Shopping Street 向島橘銀座商店街協同組合
A community-based morning market that has continued for 38 years. About 20 stores hold the market from early in the morning around 6:00 a.m., offering a wide variety of goods at great prices. The morning market, full of downtown humanity, was selected as one of the “30 Best Shopping Streets” in 2013. The morning market is held once a month on the 20th. In addition to the “Bikkuri Market” held once every two months, there are also many other events.
Accommodation in Sumida City Ward
Smi:re Stay Oshiage (3*)
Well set in the Sumida Ward district of Tokyo, Smi:re Stay Oshiage is located 600 m from Tobacco & Salt Museum, 700 m from Kamejimashogakko Memorial Park and less than 1 km from Tokyo Skytree. Popular points of interest near Smi:re Stay Oshiage include Kameido Tenjin Shrine, Olinas Kinshicho Shopping Mall and Tsukada Kobo.
Playsis East Tokyo (3*)
Located in Tokyo, 70 m from Sumida Riverside Hall, PLAYSIS East Tokyo provides air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge. Popular points of interest near PLAYSIS East Tokyo include Chiisana Garasu No Honno Museum, Ushijima Shrine and Komagatado. The nearest airport is Tokyo Haneda International Airport, 31 km from the hotel.
The Gate Hotel Ryogoku by Hulic (4*)
Boasting a bar, terrace and views of the river, The Gate Hotel Ryogoku by Hulic is set in Tokyo, 100 m from Kyu Yasuda Garden. Popular points of interest near The Gate Hotel Ryogoku include Sumo Museum, Ryogoku Kokugikan National Sumo Stadium and Japanese Sword Museum. The nearest airport is Tokyo Haneda International Airport, 16 km from the accommodation.
Petit Grande Miyabi (3*)
Situated 200 m from Yokoamicho Park in Tokyo, Petit Grande Miyabi features accommodation with air conditioning and free WiFi. Popular points of interest near Petit Grande Miyabi include Tokyo Metropolitan Memorial Hall, NTT Docomo History Square and Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum. The nearest airport is Tokyo Haneda International Airport, 30 km from the accommodation.
Sola Hotel (3*)
Located in Tokyo, near Kamejimashogakko Memorial Park, Kameido Tenjin Shrine and Umeyashiki Monument, SOLA HOTEL features free WiFi, and guests can enjoy a shared lounge and a terrace. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Olinas Kinshicho Shopping Mall, Tobacco & Salt Museum and Gokinimono Museum.
Dai-ichi Hotel Ryogoku (4*)
A 5-minute walk from the Ryogoku Kokugikan National Sumo Stadium, Dai-ichi Hotel Ryogoku offers a free shuttle to/from Tokyo Disney Resort. The hotel is connected to Ryogoku Subway Station, which offers a direct 20-minute ride to Roppongi. Most rooms have a view of Tokyo Sky Tree tower. Dai-ichi Hotel Ryogoku is a 6-minute walk from JR Ryogoku Station. It is an 8-minute drive from the Asakusa Kaminarimon temple gate.
Keisei Richmond Hotel Tokyo Oshiage (3*)
The property is around 700 m from Tobacco & Salt Museum, 700 m from Tsukada Kobo and less than 1 km from Mimeguri Shrine. The property is close to popular attractions like Sumida Cultural Museum, Hatonomachidori Shopping Street and Kofukuji Temple. Popular points of interest near Keisei Richmond Hotel Tokyo Oshiage include Tokyo Skytree, Kawashima Knit Museum and Kamejimashogakko Memorial Park.
What do you think about Sumida Ward in Tokyo? Do you like finding out about the history and culture of this interesting area of Tokyo? There is so much history and unique things to do in this local neighbourhood of Tokyo, if you’re interested in coming for yourself, make sure to refer back to this blog.