Sumida District

Tokyo's salt-of-the-earth Shitamachi culture carves a place for itself in Sumida District.

In Sumida District, traditional bathhouses and wooden homes steam and creak beneath the shadow of Japan’s tallest tower, Tokyo Skytree. Old-world ways and modern amusements scrunch together in this northeastern Tokyo area—sumo traditions hold strong and mom-and-pop shops still persist as high-rise apartments begin to make their mark in Sumida District. Many wonder how it didn’t happen sooner—the area’s subtle art scene and ethereal gardens grant Sumida District an unwavering charm.

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On the Map

Sumida District is bordered by Chūō District, Arakawa District, Asakusa/Ueno, Taito District, Katsushika District, Edogawa District, Koto District, and Adachi District

  • Public transit is Easy
  • Having a car is Possible

Haneda Airport: 30 minutes by car or 55 minutes by public transit
Narita Airport: 1 hour by car or 1 hour & 10 minutes by public transit
Shinjuku Station: 40 minutes by public transit
Ueno Station: 10 minutes by public transit
Tokyo Tower: 40 minutes by public transit

Traditionally Calm In East-Central Tokyo

Sumida Goto

Conforming to the curves of the Sumida River, Sumida District embodies a traditional Tokyo where the river was the source of commerce and sustenance.

Sumida Goto

Shitamachi culture, or the surviving heritage of the low city, seems nearly sovereign in Sumida District.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

As the years pass, larger buildings begin to loom above the cozy shops and restaurants that huddle together on street corners and nestle into alleyways.

Sumida Goto

As more towers take the place of the area's antiquated houses, the neighborhood begins to feel increasingly modern-day.

Sumida Goto

The recent construction of Tokyo Skytree welcomed new trends into the traditional district.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

Its contemporary omnipresence contrasts the generations of wisdom etched into the exterior walls of Sumida District's neighborhood homes.

Sumida Goto

Despite the influx of modernity, Sumida District still honors Shitamachi culture.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

Bathhouses dot the area.

Sumida Goto

Neighbors patrol their streets during winter to make sure the kerosene burners used to heat the area's wooden houses don't catch flame.

Sumida Goto

Space leaves room for serenity.

Pixel
The neighborhood is charming and traditional, full of small alleyways with beautifully maintained potted plants, mini-gardens, 2-seater restaurants, and lanterns everywhere."

Sampath

Visited in 2013

An Expanding Art and Culture Scene

Sumida Goto

Cafes, community art centers, and collaborative spaces are beginning to sprout in Sumida District.

Sumida Goto

The area's creative inhabitants find ways to blend the rich traditions of their past with the infinite possibilities of the future.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

Their work is beginning to catch on.

Sumida Goto

Now, people visit Sumida District to see more than relics of traditional Tokyo or shop at Skytree.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

They visit to check out the latest in Sumida District's art and culture scene.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

Some cafes serve international favorites while others feature traditional noodle bowls.

Sumida Goto

Sumida District is now on the radar.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

Like a kerosene lantern, its flame burns bright.

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It radiates.

Sumida Goto

Hotly, softly, brilliantly.

Pixel
It's very quiet - past 10 pm or so, you won't hear much noise, with the exception of a bicycle going past or the neighborhood watchman making the rounds with his clacker. Take some time to walk around and see the sights, sounds, and tastes of the neighborhood before succumbing to the shops and restaurants in the Skytree mall."

Ian

Visited in 2013

Tokyo's Skytree: A View from Every Angle

Sumida Goto

Japan's tallest and the world's third tallest building, Tokyo Skytree, doubles as a broadcast tower, triples as an observation deck, and quadruples as a restaurant.

Sumida Goto

The tower's glittering presence attracts millions of people to the park spaces and plazas beneath it.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

Sometimes, the shops inside the tower draw them in.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

Skytree stands as a testament to new achievements among traditional culture.

Sumida Goto
Pixel
The location is definitely a great way to see old Tokyo. There may not be heaps to do in the immediate area, but you can easily walk to Asakusa, Ueno, the Tokyo Skytree... all the while seeing an older part of the city you might miss otherwise."

Owen

Visited in 2012

Sumo Traditions In Sumida District

Sumida Goto

Sumida District's residents rediscover traditional Tokyo through more than its mom-and-pop shops and hard-working character. In Sumida District, sumo culture flourishes.

Sumida Goto

Each year, three grand sumo tournaments take place in nearby Ryōgoku at The Sumo Hall.

Sumida Goto

Rikishis, or wrestlers, live and train in sumo stables and fortify their diets with "chanko-nabe," a popular, protein-rich dish.

Sumida Goto

Sumōtori put some spirit into it. Hakkeyoi.

Pixel
This is a totally convenient place to look around old Tokyo, but also good to get to new Tokyo."

Cultural Preservation: The Edo-Tokyo Museum

Sumida Goto

The Edo-Tokyo Museum tells the history of Tokyo during the Edo period, before it was officially named Tokyo.

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Theatrical performances, scale models of buildings and villages, and a life-size replica of the Nihonnbashi Bridge that led into Edo help Edo's history come to life.

Sumida Goto

Edo lives on inside four walls.

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Pixel
I managed to get the waterbus up the Sumida River from Hamarikyu Garden to Asakusa. Highly recommended as a way to get home after a day out on the town."

Lis-Britt

Visited in 2012

A Hundred Flowers In Bloom: Mukōjima-Hyakkaen Garden

Sumida Goto

The only surviving flower garden from the Edo period, Mukōjima-Hyakkaen Garden invites conversation and contemplation.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

Roughly translated to "a garden with a hundred flowers that bloom throughout four seasons," Mukōjima-Hyakkaen Garden has calmed Sumida citizens and visitors since the 1800s.

Sumida Goto

The garden's beauty makes it special.

Sumida Goto
Sumida Goto

The fact that the garden is not a traditional daimyo garden makes it distinct.

Sumida Goto

Sometimes, breaking with tradition is beautiful.

Photography

Airbnb works with local photographers to capture the spirit of neighborhoods all around the world. The photography on this page includes work by:

Masaru studied Photography at Parsons The New School for Design in NYC. He has 25 years experience photographing social and human rights issues in Asia and South America. After spending many years abroad, he has begun to focus on his own country of Japan. He established Reminders Photography Stronghold in Tokyo in 2013, a curated membership gallery making multi-photographic activities possible. His photographs have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek Japan, and many others.

Masaru Goto

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