The Sumida River is one of the hundreds of rivers throughout Tokyo. The biggest are the Tama River and Arakawa River, but at the turn of the 20th century the Tokyo section of the Arakawa was diverted at Akabane, in Kita ward, to prevent flooding. The old course of the Arakawa, through seven of Tokyo's wards, was renamed the Sumida.
The Sumida River starts in Kita ward and flows 27 kilometers (almost 17 miles) through Adachi, Arakawa, Sumida, Taito, Koto and Chuo wards into Tokyo Bay. It is spanned by 26 bridges. The oldest bridge dates from 1693, and was replaced by the Shin Ohashi Bridge in 1976. The next oldest was built in 1659, replaced by the Ryōgoku-bashi Bridge, very near the Kokugikan sumo stadium in Ryogoku. This bridge featured in many paintings by the 18th/19th century ukiyoe artist, Utagawa Hiroshige. The bridges of the modern day Sumida are picturesque in the variety of their designs and the different, often vivid, colors each is painted.
There are several different river cruises on the Sumida available as a tourist attraction, between Asakusa and Hinode or Odaiba. They offer the visitor a fascinating cross-section of east-end Tokyo as revealed by life on the banks of the Sumida. The river is also plied constantly by barges and ships carrying oil and other products and commodities. Seabirds hover over and feed from it well inland from Tokyo Bay.
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