The Sumida River and Fireworks Festival

The iconic Sumida River (隅田川 ) is a beacon of Tokyo, Japan. The Sumida River stems from the Arakawa River and flows into Tokyo Bay, passing through several wards of Tokyo: Kita, Adachi, Arakawa, Sumida, Taito, Kōtō, and Chūō. One of Japan’s most anticipated fireworks displays is held there on the last Saturday of July each year.  Thousands of fireworks light up the Tokyo sky in a spectacular event that surely must not be missed when visiting Japan during the summer.

Sumida River

The Sumida River was the original route for the trade and commerce industry, and it played a major part in the success of Tokyo. The best way to experience the allure and history of the Sumida River is on a river cruise, of which there are several options. The ride gives you a glimpse of Japan’s rich history and diverse culture, and how Japanese commerce and industry developed because of the river, making the city the center of a thriving trading port.

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Sumida River.  | Hideya HAMANO

Sumida River Fireworks Festival

The Sumida River Fireworks Festival is one of the oldest fireworks displays in Japan. The origins of the annual summer event can be traced back to the Edo period when the common folk were said to enjoy viewing fireworks on a cool summer evening. It is associated with the Suijin Festival that is dedicated to the water deity in order to help appease the poor souls who have passed away from the plague or starvation, and to drive away pestilence during the reign of the eighth Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684-1751).

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Sumida River Fireworks Festival. | Peter Zuco

During the late Edo period, the Sumida River Fireworks Festival was known as Ryogoku Kawarabiraki. The festival was held annually all throughout the Meiji Restoration and the late 19th century during the Meiji–Taisho–early Showa eras. The fireworks display was briefly suspended when Tokyo went through a major economic boom, and traffic congestion and too many buildings under construction all at once were a concern. In 1978, the festival was revived and renamed to Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai (Sumida River Fireworks Display). It is now one of festivals that visitors look forward to when in Tokyo during the summer season.