From the Edo era through the Meiji era, Tokyo was often called the “City of Water.”
This was especially prevalent during the Edo era. In the past, the entire eastern area around Edo Castle was a lowland region, but Tokugawa Shogunate commissioned for the change in river flow and initiated the reclamation work to the river inlet to spread waterways throughout the region. The most important of which, was the Sumidagawa River. Using the waterways as a means of transport, materials supporting the Edo infrastructure were gathered from all over the region. This became a central hub for water transportation and entertainment, as fish markets were established in Nihonbashi, with more following suit in many riverfronts. The Sumidagawa River also had many warehouses along its shores where supplies were stored. The fireworks show by the Sumidagawa River that continues to this day was launched to commemorate the opening of the Ryogoku river during the Edo era. The river was crowded with boats in the evening, filled with many of whom enjoyed the fireworks.
Industrial development utilizing the abundant land mass and water
From the Meiji era to the Showa era, rapid industrialization occurred in Japan. Coupled with favorable conditions such as a level flatland and an abundant source of water, waterways especially excelled in shipping goods in and out, leading to many factories being built near the riverbanks of the Sumidagawa and the Edogawa rivers. For example, the name “Kanebo,” from the company dealing in cosmetics and food, comes from an abbreviation of “Kanegafuchiboseki.” This word derived from its history of being established in the junction point where the Sumidagawa and Ayasegawa rivers in the Sumida Ward joined together. Many power plants were established along the Sumidagawa River shore as a symbol of modernization. One example is the “Spooky Chimneys,” or the four chimneys of the Senju Thermal Power Plant built in 1926. Through the trick of the eye and point of view, the number of chimneys that can be seen changes from 4 to 3 to 2.
Remarkable development by the waterfront
In recent years, Tokyo’s waterfront has been re-evaluated and prospered as a place of recreation and relaxation for citizens and tourists. Take a stroll and enjoy the landscape. The remains of former factories along the Sumidagawa River have given way to high-rise apartments, and the “Sumidagawa Terrace” on the riverbed was built from the mouth of the Sumidagawa River, all the way to Senju. The only thing unchanged since the olden days are the boats. There are water buses operating from the Hinode Pier towards the Asakusa or Odaiba areas while enjoying the Sumidagawa River. Especially popular are the spaceship-like water buses “Himiko” and “Hotaluna,” both designed by a manga artist, Matsumoto Leiji. At night, the group of bridges over the Sumidagawa River will light up. The area will be crowded with tourists who will pass under the lit-up bridges on yakata-bune (boats with Japanese-style roofing) or stroll through the Sumidagawa Terrace enjoying the lights from the boats and bridges.