Arakawa Ward snuggles like a puzzle piece in the bends of the Sumida River. The third smallest of Tokyo's 23 wards, it has an intimate, unpretentious atmosphere that matches the attitude of many of its residents. Asked what makes Arakawa special, locals and even city officials tilt their heads in thought, as though the question has never occurred to them before.

Bordered by Adachi Ward north of the river, and to the south by the wards of Kita, Bunkyo, Taito and Sumida, Arakawa is steeped in Edo history and claims official shita machi (old downtown), status.

Locals seem to appreciate their temples and shrines, but happily single out an electric streetcar as Arakawa's must-see feature.