As Tokyo prepared for a summer of international sporting events, the city completed an extensive construction of stadiums and venues around the metropolis to house the competitions. Bordered by the Sumida River to the west and Arakawa River to the east, the Koto Ward is home to the majority of the event locations, given its proximity to the Tokyo Bay and abundance of reclaimed land. The 45 districts of Koto-ku also encompass an area of the city rich in history, where many neighborhoods and landmarks date back to the Edo Period. Documented as one of the oldest hanamachi (geisha entertainment quarters) in Japan, the district of Fukagawa served as the backdrop for many notable ukiyo-e designs. In the print Fukagawa Susaki and Jumantsubo, Hiroshige presents an aerial view of the marshlands, looking northeast on a winter day. In View of the Sangen Teahouse in Snow at Fukagawa Hachiman Shrine in Toto (Edo), Kunisada captures a local beauty trudging through the snow.
Hiroshige. Fukagawa Susaki and Jumantsubo. 1857. Woodblock Print.
Kunisada. View of the Sangen Teahouse in Snow at Fukagawa Hachiman Shrine in Toto (Edo). c.1828. Woodblock Print.
Today, as one of the remaining shitamachi, or Old Tokyo districts, the neighborhood of Fukagawa is still lined with alleyways of shops and restaurants that preserve a traditional feel. Fukagawa was famously illustrated by Hokusai in his design Under the Mannen Bridge at Fukagawa. Although the wooden planks were replaced with steel, Mannen Bridge still serves as a crossing over the waterways of Koto Ward.
Hokusai. Under the Mannen Bridge at Fukagawa. c. 1829-1833. Woodblock Print.
Mannen Bridge in Koto Ward, Tokyo. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
Farther inland, at the northern tip of Koto Ward lies Kameido, another shitamachi neighborhood known for Kameido Tenjin Shrine. Crowds have visited the shrine every spring since the Edo period to catch a glimpse of the hanging wisteria trellises in full bloom. The gardens and bridge were a favored subject by landscape artists from Hiroshige and Hokusai, to Hiroshi Yoshida and Hasui.
Hiroshi Yoshida. Kameido Bridge. 1927. Woodblock Print.
Kameido Tenjin Shrine. Image source: Creative Commons.
Between its historical landmarks and ready access to land and sea, the Koto Ward provides a fitting location for Tokyo to both accommodate an international event and share the city’s culture and traditions.