Visitare Sumida

Exploring Sumida Ward: not only Tokyo Skytree and Sumo!

When you hear “Sumida,” the iconic river of Tokyo often comes to mind—the river where trade flourished and the legendary Kannon statue was fished out, giving birth to Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest and most famous temple.

However, Sumida is not just about the river; it’s the name of the entire ward that stretches along the eastern bank. Since 2013, it has been home to the Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest tower. For many years, it has also been a hub for the ancient martial art of Sumo.

In 2023, I was honored to be chosen as a Sumida Ambassador, providing me with the opportunity to delve deeper into this district where tradition and modernity coexist. Sumida perfectly embodies the essence of modern Japan, with iconic landmarks and hidden gems waiting to be explored. As an ambassador, I revisited iconic places and discovered new corners of the city. I am delighted to share recommendations on things to do and see in Sumida Ward with you.

Learn more about the Sumida Ambassador project.

Sumida Ward: Beyond Sumo and Tokyo Skytree

While Sumo and Tokyo Skytree are the primary attractions in this ward, often highlighted among the must-see places in Tokyo, there are many other interesting things to discover in Sumida, depending on your interests. The main stations in this ward are Ryogoku, Oshiage/Skytree, and Kinshicho, each offering a mix of famous and lesser-known spots, perfect for those seeking a quieter and more unconventional Tokyo areas.

Sumo tournament Tokyo

Ryogoku: The Sumo District

Watching Sumo in Japan is a fascinating activity that sparks curiosity among tourists visiting the country. It’s not just about the sport itself; it’s a symbol of Japan—a unique experience deeply rooted in Japanese tradition. Ryogoku is the place to go to witness this spectacle. The JR Ryogoku station is themed around Sumo, adorned with paintings and handprints of sumo wrestlers. Just outside is the Kokugikan, the main Sumo stadium where three out of the six annual tournaments take place. For more information on attending a Sumo tournament or watching training sessions, you can read the dedicated article on where to see Sumo in Tokyo.

A must-try dish in this area is Chanko Nabe, a hot pot with vegetables, meat, fish, and noodles. It’s the traditional dish Sumo wrestlers cook and eat in their training stables. Numerous restaurants specialize in Chanko Nabe, and two notable places are Sakura at Daiichi Hotel Ryogoku, offering a rich buffet of Japanese dishes alongside Chanko Nabe, and Kappo Yoshiba, a traditional building with a Sumo ring where evening performances of Sumo-related songs and music take place.

Next to the Sumo stadium is Former Yasuda Garden, a charming Japanese-style garden with a pond, goats, bridges, and various types of trees that bloom in different colors throughout the year. While the garden is small, it’s free to enter and generally not too crowded, allowing you to fully appreciate its beauty.

For enthusiasts of Japanese swords, the Japanese Sword Museum in Ryogoku is a dedicated space showcasing Japanese swords and the art of sword-making. Founded by the Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords to prevent the extinction of this craft, the museum houses a collection of swords and katana, including one that belonged to Uesugi Kenshin. The museum also hosts various exhibitions throughout the year, featuring modern swords created by artisans preserving this ancient tradition. During my last visit, I had the opportunity to admire both modern and historic swords, like those crafted by Master Matsunaga of Arao I visited a few years ago.
Admission: 1,000 JPY
Opening hours: 9:30-17:00 (closed on Mondays)

Sumida, particularly the Ryogoku area, is the birthplace and residence of Katsushika Hokusai, the master of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints that inspired European artists like Monet. A short walk from Ryogoku station is the Sumida Hokusai Museum, with distinctive architecture. On the forth floor, there’s a permanent exhibition about the life of the master and explanations of Ukiyo-e techniques. The third floor instead hosts temporary exhibitions that change over time. Until February 25, there is an exhibition dedicated to Ukiyo-e featuring samurai, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Admission: Permanent Exibithion 400 JPY(adult)  – Special Exibithion admission fee vary, check the official website.
Opening hours: 9:00-17:30 (last admission 17:00)

I also recommend the Edo Tokyo Museum, although it is currently closed for renovation. It’s my favorite museum in Tokyo, narrating the history and culture of the city through reconstructions and interactive spaces. I can’t wait for it to reopen its doors in 2025!

Exploring Tokyo Skytree’s Surroundings

Standing at 436 meters tall, the Tokyo Skytree, inaugurated in 2012, is the world’s tallest tower. Its height is intentional; reading the numbers in a different way spells “Musa(n)shi,” the ancient name of the region where Tokyo now stands. From the Skytree’s observation decks at 350 meters and 450 meters, you can enjoy a breathtaking 360-degree view of Tokyo and its surroundings. I recommend purchasing tickets in advance to reduce waiting time.

While the view from the observation decks is exceptional, the beauty of the Skytree is also in seeing it against the skyline or catching glimpses of it between buildings. There are several vantage points in the vicinity for capturing unique photos of this modern symbol of Tokyo. I created a photo carousel on Instagram, but my favorite photography spot is undoubtedly Jukken Bridge, a ten-minute walk away, where you can see the Tokyo Skytree perfectly reflected in the canal waters!
Admission: From 1,800 JPY
Opening hours: 10:00-21:00

Speaking of photography spots, I also want to mention that a 10-minute walk takes you to Takagi Shrine, a small local shrine dedicated to onigiri, the typical Japanese rice balls! It all originates from a sacred rock that has the characteristic triangular shape of onigiri. Throughout the shrine area, you’ll find small objects and pebbles shaped like onigiri in various sizes. Even the ema, the wooden plaques for writing wishes, have this shape, making Takagi Shrine a perfect Instagram spot!

Tokyo Skytree and the Solomachi shopping mall represent the new and modern side of this area, which, in reality, is rich in history and local tradition. Many artisans keep their crafts alive, passing them down from generation to generation since the Edo period.

An example is the Tsukada Koubu atelier, where artisan Tsukada Sensei creates beautiful Kimekomi dolls—wooden dolls covered with snippets of silk fabric. The kimekomi technique originated in Kyoto and flourished in ancient Tokyo during the Edo period when many Edo Kimekomi dolls were in demand for celebrating Hina Matsuri, thanks to the refined details of the kimonos worn by these dolls. If you want to create a unique souvenir, you can participate in a workshop in the studio, crafting a pendant using this traditional technique for only 1,500 JPY.

Or the Aizome Museum, where you can experience first-hand the Aizome fabric-dyeing technique, achieved by tying the fabric with elastic bands and dipping it in this natural paint that will then give it the blue colour, while leaving the fabric that does not soak in white. This experience as well costs only 1,500 JPY.

A short distance from Tokyo Skytree, you’ll also find Sumida Park, which fills with cherry blossoms in spring, making it one of my favorite spot for Hanami near home. Here, you’ll also find Ushima Jinja, a shrine with a distinctive “triple torii” where beautiful illuminations take place in winter. Every five years, a festival called Mastruri occurs, featuring sacred cattle (Ushi means “Cow”) parading through the district. If you want to continue your stroll, you can walk along the river, always under blooming cherry blossoms, until you reach Sakurabashi Bridge, a pedestrian bridge with a beautiful view of Tokyo Skytree, the cherry blossoms below, and geisha serving tea (only during the sakura season)!

Diving in the Local Atmosphere of Kinshicho

This area, less known than the two mentioned earlier, is perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in local atmospheres and discover the daily life of Tokyo, where modernity and tradition blend seamlessly.

Just outside Kinshicho station is Dagashi Shop Ewatari, a classic candy store—a haven for Japanese children since the Showa period. Here, you can buy various types of snacks, candies, and sweets for just a few coins. Many snacks and candies are curious, with unusual flavors and cute shapes. I bought a fun set to make sushi-shaped candies, which I shared in a YouTube video.

In this area, you’ll also find Kameido Tenjin Shrine, an ancient shrine featured in some famous Ukiyo-e for its highly arched red bridge framed by beautiful purple wisteria at the end of April/beginning of May. The shrine is charming throughout the year and is one of the most beautiful places in Tokyo to see this particular flowering.

So much tradition, but also one of the most modern and interesting things I’ve ever experienced in Japan: the earthquake simulation at Honjo Bosaikan! It’s a disaster prevention center with various zones simulating emergencies, such as earthquakes and fires. Visitors are guided on how to stay safe and activate rescue procedures correctly. Admission is free, and explanations are available in English. Personally, I found it not only useful but also extremely enjoyable (of course, hoping to never be in the real situation of having to apply this knowledge!). Given Japan’s susceptibility to various disasters, especially earthquakes, it’s valuable to know how to act in case of an emergency. I must admit that trying the simulator was also quite fun and adrenaline-pumping… naturally, I hope to never experience that intense and endless tremor in real life!

Sumida - Kameido Tenjin

In Sumida Ward, there are many things to do and see based on your interests. I am confident that you can create a beautiful itinerary in the ward. If you need further inspiration, I refer you to the official Sumida Ward website.

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