Sumida park sits on both sides of the Sumida river (Sumidagawa in Japanese) and is one of the oldest hanami spots in Tokyo. It is often featured in the top lists of sakura spots in Tokyo, especially since it is offering scenic views of the Sumida river and the Tokyo Sky Tree. There are about 600 cherry trees in this park that you can enjoy while strolling along the river bank. Among all the crowded sakura spots in Tokyo I like this one most, as it has a bit of a rough edge and you can keep on walking along the river bank pretty far up north, where less people seem to go. It is not as bad as Ueno park or the Meguro river, where it is just impossible to move during the peak season. I also have the feeling that the bulk of tourists in Asakusa stays in the vicinity of Senso-ji and do not venture into this park, even in sakura season.
Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641-1680, reign as shogun: 1651–1680), is credited with planting the first cherry trees along the Sumida river and it was Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684–1751, reign as shogun: 1716–1745), the guy from Asukayama Park, who further gave the order to plant cherry trees from Mukojima to Senju. The park developed as one of the first hanami spots for the ordinary people in Edo (old name of Tokyo).
The West bank and East bank are connected through various bridges, the Azumabashi bridge (-bashi means bridge) in the south and the Sakurabashi bridge in the north. In the middle you also have 2 more bridges, one for a railroad (the Tobu Sky Tree Line) and the other one for the Edo Highway (National Route 6) that you can also use as a pedestrian. The Sakurabashi bridge is a X-shaped pedestrian-only bridge that connects Taito-ku and Sumida-ku and was completed in 1985. It is the number one spot to enjoy the sakura on both banks of the river and is apparently a popular spot for Japanse movies and television dramas.
On the West Bank
The Western side of the park is the one closest to Asakusa Station. The first thing that you will notice when you get to the park is the large building from “Tokyo Cruise”, and especially on weekends and holidays the long line of people waiting to catch a boat. Once you get past this building the actual park starts. It is a long an narrow park of about 800 meters, with at the northern tip a sports centre and baseball field. About halfway you have 2 cafes where you can stop for a coffee (one of them is Tully’s Coffee) or a small snack.
On the East Bank
The eastern side of the park is smaller and feels more like a garden. Apart from a lot of well kept greens it contains a small place of worship called Ushima Shrine. I recommend though that you just keep on walking on the river bank to the north, all the way up to Sakurabashi bridge. You will pass Kofukuji temple and Chomeiji temple that are well worth a visit, and you can stop by for some famous sakura mochi. Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), a major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry, used to live on the second floor of this Sakura Mochi store for 3 months in 1888. I visited this place previously during my lucky god pelgrimage in Mukojima.
Another view from the West Bank of Sumida park. Notice the blue plastic that is very common to have the hanami.
West Bank: 1-3-13 Hanakawado, Taito-ku, Tokyo
East Bank: 1-2-5 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
West Bank: Asakusa Station (main metro station) – 2 minutes walk (Asakusa Line, Ginza Line, Tobu Skytree Line)
East Bank: Asakusa Station (main metro station) – 7 minutes walk (Asakusa Line, Ginza Line, Tobu Skytree Line)
Opening hours: always open
Entrance fee: free
When to best visit? Late March, early April. I prefer to visit this place during the day, however, night time is also quite pretty with the Tokyo Sky Tree in the background.
Web: http://www.city.taito.lg.jp/smph/index/event/kanko/sumidasakuramatsuri.html (in Japanese)
Name in Japanese: 隅田公園