You can join the Tokyo River Cruise from either the Hama-rikyū Gardens near Tsuki-ji or in Odaiba at the mouth of the Sumida River. From here the trip heads north along the river to Tokyo’s most traditional district, Asakusa. Seeing the city from the water adds an interesting perspective and provides an entertaining way to travel between two must-see parts of Tokyo that are otherwise quite time-consuming and convoluted to navigate between.
Along with looking down on a city from above to get a feel for its layout and the relativity between key sights I also like to see it from the water. In Tokyo, the riverside is so built up and so much land has been reclaimed and built on that there are few places that you would see the river any other way.
We hopped aboard one of the interesting riverboats that run up and down the Sumida River. The trip takes you beneath the many bridges of the city, past distinctive buildings and mass residential areas and during springtime we got a few glimpses of the stunning cherry blossoms in public parks.
We discovered the cruise when we wandered down through the Hamarikyu gardens in the Chuo district of Tokyo after a morning visit to Tsukiji. Tsukiji is the home of the famous Tokyo fish markets and a place to eat some really excellent sushi. There isn’t a lot of English information about the cruise but it is easy enough to work out how to buy a ticket at Hinode Pier for Y780 and board the boat there.
There is another departure point on the other side of the river at Odaiba which also follows the Sumida River on much the same route up to Asakusa.
I really wanted to get the futuristic-looking boat below but we ended up on a more retro-styled one which in hindsight was a bonus as we were able to stand on the back of the boat in the fresh air. The full trip up the river to Asakusa takes 40 minutes and gives an interesting perspective on the city including the 13 bridge crossings along the way.
The bridges in order from Hinode Pier going north to Asakusa are:
- Sumidagawa ohashi
We did the cruise with Suijo Bus on the spur of the moment, picking up our tickets at the pier rather than booking ahead. It was on our first springtime visit to Tokyo and a bit of a grey morning which made our photos of the buildings and water a bit dull. The grey was more than made up for though by the splashes of intense cherry blossom along the river banks and in the parks we spotted along the way. If you had the opportunity to do the trip on a clear day with the water sparkling that would be really stunning too.
We did note that the direction we did the trip worked well, the boat was quite empty going up but there were multiple bus tour groups waiting to board at the Asakusa end when we got off. If you haven’t had the chance to explore Asakusa yet this would be a good chance to do it.
Read More: Things to do in Asakusa
Don’t miss Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple with a history dating back to the 7th century, the Nakamise shopping street that leads up to the temple with lots of small stores and some interesting snacks to purchase. As you wander through the surrounding streets the area has a feeling of a bit more history than most of Tokyo, during the Edo period it was a popular entertainment district and some of that feel remains. There are also many options for a tasty and reasonably priced lunch around here.
I’d recommend the cruise if you like to get a feel of a city from the water and as a more scenic way to make your way back across the city.
Have you used a harbour or river cruise to get your bearings in a new city? If you’ve done one of the Tokyo river cruises what did you think?