Sumida Ward spans an area that has endured ruinous fires, floods, plagues, and seismic as well as economic jostlings. Residents of this battered part of the city nonetheless have always kept their pride buoyant and their spirits aloft. Even when the chips are down, residents of Sumida Ward insist that things are looking up.

Take the case of urban planning. Hemmed in on three sides by the Arakawa, Sumidagawa, and Kyu-Nakagawa rivers, and cut off from the sea by Koto Ward to the south, the only direction left to expand is upward. So up it is.

The world's tallest telecommunications tower is slated to rise a whopping 610 meters in Oshiage, a humble little commercial district east of the ward offices. The New Tokyo Tower, or "Sumida Tower" as some prefer, will be nearly twice the height of Godzilla's orange plaything, Tokyo Tower, in Minato Ward. Budgeted at 50 billion yen and scheduled to be completed by 2011, the tower design features two observation decks, a shopping mall, and the capacity to shift TV broadcasting from analog to digital format. An excited Oshiage train-station attendant rushed me off to the construction site. "It's going up right here," he said, pointing toward a fleet of concrete trucks beyond which I glimpsed Sumida's other elevated landmark, Philippe Stark's golden doodie -- city literature refers to it as the "objet" -- atop the Asahi Breweries Building.