Sumida River Tokyo
The Sumida River is Tokyo's best known river and is a great place to see as visitors to the Japanese capital, offering numerous cruise options, and dotted with a medley of photogenic bridges.
Sumida River, Tokyo 隅田川
The Sumida River (Sumidagawa) is one of Tokyo's main rivers, and the most familiar Tokyo river to visitors to the city. The Sumida River starts directly north of Tokyo, then goes out eastward through eastern Tokyo.
The river branches off the larger Arakawa River at the Iwabuchi Watergate in Tokyo's Kita ward, and goes about 24 km down to Tokyo Bay via Adachi, Arakawa, Sumida, Taito, Koto and Chuo wards.
There are 37 bridges on the Sumida River, most of them for road traffic, but there are several train bridges, a pedestrian bridge, and a pipe bridge, as well. Most of the bridges across the Sumida River join Taito ward (west bank) with Sumida ward (east bank). (Note that the kanji for the Sumida river 隅田川 and for Sumida ward 墨田区 are different.)
Sumida River Walk
If you've ever taken the train from Tobu-Asakusa station to Nikko, you'll certainly remember the magnificent view, especially in the morning and evening, of the Sumida River just after departure.
Since summer 2020, it has also been possible to enjoy this view without taking the train, as a pedestrian path, called the Sumida River Walk, has been built under the iron railway bridge. In addition to the varied views of the river and cityscape, this also shortens the walk from Asakusa to the Tokyo Skytree, especially if you walk along the Kitajukken River. You also pass Tokyo Mizumachi, a new open-air shopping mall, as well as restaurants and cafés directly on the Kitajukken, beneath the railway line.
The Sumida River branches off the larger Arakawa River at the Iwabuchi Watergate in Tokyo's Kita ward, and goes about 24 km down to Tokyo Bay via Adachi, Arakawa, Sumida, Taito, Koto and Chuo wards. The stretch of the river that gets the most tourist traffic is between Taito and Sumida wards, only about 2.5km east of the Imperial Palace, and just a short train ride from Tokyo Station.
The Sumida River promenade
Sumida-gawa is around 160 m wide at this point, and you naturally get a much better impression on foot than by briefly looking down from a train window. While trains cross the bridge upside down, the wooden plank path, accessible between 7 and 10 p.m., stretches to the side. In some places, glass panes have been embedded in the floor, to create a glass floor for viewing the river through the glass. A sign reading "Yumi Katsura Lover's Sancturary", also allows love padlocks to be affixed to the fence.
The Sumida River promenade is therefore an ideal place for couples in love, especially at sunset, and of course for long-married people. The walkway is fully wheelchair-accessible, thanks to low-angle ramps.
The Sumida River Promenade links the two parts of Sumida Park, stretching along both banks of the river. Very popular, and not just during the cherry blossom season, the southern part of the park has been redeveloped with numerous family-friendly amenities.
Sumida River Attractions
Along its length are numerous sights and attractions. The Asakusa district in Taito ward, served by the two main Tokyo water cruise companies' ferries, is famous for its bustling old-time Tokyo atmosphere and ancient, picturesque Sensoji Temple. The towering, elegant Tokyo Skytree in Sumida ward, offering unparalleled panoramas of the metropolis, and lots of fun shopping, is accessible from the same point in the river, a little east from Asakusa, over Azuma Bridge.
A few minutes by boat south of Asakusa you glide past the Ryogoku district - the heart of sumo wrestling in Japan, with its green hexagonal-roofed Kokugikan Stadium, and, behind it, the excellent Edo-Tokyo Museum. Futher down near the mouth of the river is the elegant, green oasis of Hamarikyu Garden, which many ferries serve. Odaiba, even further downriver where it meets Tokyo Bay, is a broad, spacious island offering various enjoyable ways to spend your time in Tokyo.
The Sumida River Fireworks Festival happens towards the end of July on the stretch of the river between Shirahige Bridge and Ryogoku Bridge. This is the biggest of Tokyo's fireworks festivals and is extremely popular with the locals. However, unless your idea of fun is hours waiting in a hot crush of people for a 90-minute display that, while spectacular, is an hour and a half of being tightly stuck in a dense crowd while bossy marshals' megaphones constantly blare, then it is best enjoyed from afar.
Tokyo Mizumachi, for food and shopping
At the southern end of the park, beneath the Tobu-Isesaki railroad line, lies the Tokyo Mizumachi. In fine weather, you can even sit out in the open air, right on the water's edge, for a bite to eat or simply a cup of coffee. The canal-lined Kitajukken connects the Sumida and Kyunaka rivers, which in turn flows into the great Arakawa River. There are currently 13 stores, restaurants, cafés and even a youth hostel below the railway line. The Kontent design boutique is a must-see, as some of the products it sells cannot be found in other stores. For a good cup of coffee, it's worth stopping off at Deus Ex Machina Asakusa or Muya. Fans of Japanese sweets and desserts will be delighted at ichiya. For a hearty lunch or dinner, Shake Tree Diner, LAND_A and Jack's Wife Frida are three other stops offering Western cuisine. For those wishing to choose from a wider range of number of restaurants, nearby Solamachi, below the Tokyo Skytree, offers a vast choice.
Enjoy the river from a boat
Thanks to the many available Sumida River pleasure cruises, the most easily accessed section of the river is from Asakusa southwards. The sightseeing highlights of the Sumida River are the Tokyo Skytree and the many bridges, varying in color and design, that span the Sumida.
The Sumida River also provides easy access by sightseeing cruise boat to the shopping and amusements of the Toyosu district in Tokyo Bay.