• Japanese Ambience

[4K] Walk along the Sumida River to the Ryogoku Kokugikan where the Grand Sumo Tournament is held



Walking route from Asakusa to Ryogoku Kokugikan

We walked along the Sumida River from Asakusa, looking at the Tokyo Skytree and feeling the time flow slowly.


History of the Sumida River

During the Edo period, the Sumida River played an important role as a key water transportation route supporting the construction of Edo Castle, for example, it was used to transport lumber cut from Chichibu. Both banks of the river were lined with warehouses that stored and supplemented the transported goods, and the river was a major source of economic and living support for the citizens of Edo.


At the same time, the river was loved by the common people as a place for recreational activities such as boating and fireworks, as well as a place for lively entertainment such as the Ryogoku Bridge area and Asakusa.


The bustle of the Sumida River continued until the early 1950s, and the ryotei restaurants lined up along the right bank of the river from Ryogoku Bridge to Kuramae Bridge set up their piers on the river in the summer to liven up the Sumida River in summer.


However, during the period of rapid economic growth, the road network in the Tokyo metropolitan area was improved, and the distribution function of the Sumida River was shifted to land transportation. In addition, the water quality of the Sumida River deteriorated drastically as factory and domestic wastewater flowed into the river. As a result, the river became foul-smelling, and it is said that the smell even wafted into the trains that passed over the river.


In addition, the concrete levees that were built to protect the residents along the river from repeated floods contributed greatly to the protection of the lives and properties of the people of Tokyo, but at the same time, they divided the river and the city, and combined with water pollution and the loss of distribution functions, people's interest in the Sumida River gradually waned.


Since then, with the development of sewage systems and dredging of the river, the water quality of the Sumida River has been gradually improved, and super levees and terraces have been built to create an environment where people can enjoy the river. The river has also become a place for recreation, with water buses operating and events being held.


Nevertheless, compared to cities overseas, there is still a lot of room to utilize the waterfront. For example, in Venice, many water events and festivals are held throughout the year, such as the Civic Regatta, where boats cover the surface of the water. Unlike the Seine River in Paris, which is lined with historical buildings, the Thames River in London is similar to the Sumida River with many factories and logistics functions, but it has museums and walking routes, and water buses are being used more and more.



History of Ryogoku Kokugikan

Meiji - Taisho era

The current Ryogoku Kokugikan is a relatively new building, built in 1985, but the history of the Kokugikan itself goes back almost 100 years. 1909 saw the construction of the first Kokugikan in Kokugyoin, Ryogoku. In 1909, the first Kokugikan was built at Kaikyoin in Ryogoku, and the name "Kokugikan" was chosen after a speech by writer Suikage Emi, a huge sumo fan, who said that sumo is Japan's national sport.


About 15 years later, the Kokugikan was burnt down in the Great Kanto Earthquake. However, the large iron umbrella (roof), the trademark of the Kokugikan, survived the fire and was rebuilt based on it.


Since the Showa era

In 1944, the Kokugikan was again lost in an air raid in Tokyo. After the war, many facilities and lands in Japan were seized by the GHQ. The Kokugikan was no exception, and was unable to operate for several years after the war.


The decision to rebuild it was made in 1949, four years after the end of the war. Until then, sumo tournaments were held at the Sumo Hall at Meiji Shrine and the temporary Kokugikan in Osaka. However, considering the limited number of spectators and the fact that the Ryogoku Kokugikan was not returned, the construction of a new Kokugikan began in Kuramae.


The construction of the new Kokugikan began in Kuramae. The Kuramae Kokugikan was used for the next 30 years.