The Sumida River (隅田川, Sumida-gawa) is a river that flows through central Tokyo, Japan. It branches from the Arakawa River at Iwabuchi (in Kita-ku) and flows into Tokyo Bay. Its tributaries include the Kanda and Shakujii rivers.
It passes through the Kita, Adachi, Arakawa, Sumida, Taito, Kōtō and Chūō wards of Tokyo.
What is now known as the "Sumida River" was previously the path of the Ara-kawa. Toward the end of the Meiji era, the Ara-kawa was manually diverted to prevent flooding, as the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda is nearby.
Sumida Gawa pottery was named after the Sumida River and was originally manufactured in the Asakusa district near Tokyo by potter Inoue Ryosai I and his son Inoue Ryosai II. In the late 1890s, Ryosai I developed a style of applied figures on a surface with flowing glaze, based on Chinese glazes called "flambe." Sumida pieces could be teapots, ash trays, or vases, and were made for export to the West. Inoue Ryosai III, grandson of Ryosai I, moved the manufacturing site to Yokohama in 1924, but the pieces continued to be identified as Sumida ware. The pottery has been subject to various myths, such as being manufactured on the make-believe island of Poo, which was washed away by a typhoon, or being manufactured by Korean prisoners of war. Sandra Andacht wrote in 1987, "Sumida gawa wares have found great popularity with collectors, dealers and investors. The motifs conform to the general Western concepts of what Oriental designs are expected to depict; writhing dragons, Buddhist disciples, mythological and legendary beings and creatures. Thus, these wares are sought after and prices (here in the States) are quite high, even for pieces in less than perfect condition."
The Noh play Sumida-gawa, which the British composer Benjamin Britten saw while visiting Japan in 1956, inspired him to compose Curlew River (1964), a dramatic work based on the story.
The kabuki play, Sumida-gawa — Gonichi no Omokage, is perhaps better known by the title Hokaibo, which is the name of the central character. This stage drama was written by Nakawa Shimesuke, and it was first produced in Osaka in 1784. The play continues to be included in kabuki repertoire in Japan; and it is also performed in the West. It was recreated by the Heisei Nakamura-za in the Lincoln Center Festival in New York in the summer of 2007, with Nakamura Kanzaburō XVIII leading the cast.
The Sumida River Fireworks, which are recognized as one of the oldest and most famous firework displays in Japan, are launched from barges across the river between Ryōgoku and Asakusa. During summer, a festival is also held at the same time.
The poet Matsuo Bashō lived by the Sumida River, alongside the famous banana tree (Japanese: bashō) from which he took his nom de plume. See, for example, the opening lines of "Records of a Weather Exposed Skeleton," published in The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches (Penguin Classics, 1967).
The Sumida River appears in a haiku by Issa from 1820:
The Sumida runs through Tokyo for 27 kilometers, under 26 bridges spaced at about one bridge per kilometer. Amongst these, the principal ones are: