Ah, Saitama! Just north of Tokyo, this often-overlooked gem is a captivating blend of history, nature, and urban marvels. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler looking for something off the beaten path or someone simply wanting a break from the urban sprawl of Tokyo, Saitama is a destination that promises delightful surprises at every corner. As you journey through this comprehensive guide, you will uncover the very essence of Saitama, its hidden treasures, and the warmth of its people.
Nestled in the heart of the Kanto region, Saitama Prefecture is bordered by Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Gunma, Nagano, and Yamanashi. This strategic location has historically made Saitama a bridge of sorts between Tokyo and the northern regions of Japan, paving the way for a rich tapestry of cultural and commercial exchanges.
Dive deep into Japan’s storied past in Saitama. The city of Kawagoe, affectionately known as “Little Edo,” offers a nostalgic trip back to the Edo period (1603-1868). Here, you can wander through Kura-zukuri streets lined with traditional clay-walled warehouses and hear the chimes of the Time Bell Tower, which has tolled the hours for over 350 years.
Similarly, the ancient shrines and temples scattered across the prefecture, such as the Hikawa Shrine in Omiya, tell tales of centuries gone by, offering a spiritual respite to weary souls.
For nature enthusiasts, Saitama is nothing short of a paradise. The Chichibu region, in particular, is famed for its stunning mountain ranges, lush valleys, and beautiful rivers. The scenic Arakawa River and Nagatoro’s mesmerizing river rapids beckon adventurers for thrilling boat rides, while the blooming fields of Shibazakura during spring are a sight to behold.
The starlit skies of the Chichibu Night Festival or the vibrant autumn colors at Mitsumine Shrine are other natural wonders that showcase Saitama’s profound beauty across seasons.
Modern Day Delights
It’s not just history and nature – Saitama’s urban areas are teeming with contemporary attractions. The Railway Museum in Omiya is a treat for train enthusiasts, while the Saitama Super Arena hosts an array of international concerts and sports events. Cities like Saitama City and Urawa pulsate with the energy of modern Japan, from bustling shopping districts to trendy cafes.
Savor Saitama’s flavors. From the freshwater delicacies of the Arakawa River to the comforting warmth of miso potato stew, Saitama’s culinary scene is a potpourri of traditional and modern tastes. And yes, for those with a sweet tooth, the region’s traditional desserts like Chichibu’s warabi mochi are not to be missed.
In Saitama, every alleyway whispers stories of the past, every mountain peak promises unparalleled vistas, and every bite of its cuisine is a testament to its rich cultural heritage. So pack your bags, wear your most comfortable shoes, and embark on a journey through Saitama – a place where every traveler finds a piece of Japan to cherish forever.
Welcome to Saitama. Welcome to a world waiting to be explored.
Saitama City Guide: A Brief History Of Saitama, Japan For Visitors
Situated just north of the cosmopolitan hub of Tokyo, Saitama boasts a history that is both captivating and integral to the cultural fabric of Japan. To truly understand and appreciate the charm of this region, one must delve deep into its annals and trace the pathways of its past. Let us embark on this historical journey through time, discovering the many layers that have shaped Saitama.
Ancient Beginnings: The Jomon and Yayoi Periods
Jomon Era (c. 14,000 – 300 BCE): As with many parts of Japan, the earliest evidence of human settlement in Saitama dates back to the Jomon Period. Archaeological excavations have unearthed earthenware, clay figures, and stone tools, indicative of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of its ancient inhabitants.
Yayoi Era (c. 300 BCE – 300 CE): Transitioning from the Jomon to the Yayoi period, the region saw a shift towards agriculture. The discovery of bronze and iron tools, as well as rice paddies in certain areas, suggests a gradual transformation in livelihood and societal structures.
Rise of State Power: The Kofun Period (c. 300 – 538 CE)
Saitama’s position in the central Kanto region meant it was greatly influenced by the emerging Yamato state. Mounds or ‘kofun’ from this period, typically burial sites for the elite, dot the Saitama landscape. The presence of these structures indicates a socio-political hierarchy and the region’s integration into broader state systems.
Early Centers of Power: The Nara and Heian Periods (710-1185 CE)
During these eras, Saitama witnessed the establishment of provincial governance structures, with Musashi Province (which encompassed present-day Saitama, Tokyo, and parts of Kanagawa) playing a central role. Religion, particularly Buddhism, flourished, leading to the construction of many temples that still stand today.
The Age of the Samurai: Kamakura and Muromachi Periods (1185-1573 CE)
The Kamakura Period marked the ascendancy of the warrior class, with the Kamakura shogunate exerting control over the region. The subsequent Muromachi Period saw the rise of local lords or ‘daimyo’ who maintained fortified residences and governed territories within Saitama.
Unification and Conflict: The Sengoku and Edo Periods
Sengoku Era (c. 1467-1603 CE): This ‘Warring States’ period was marked by significant unrest, with daimyo vying for power. Saitama became a strategic region due to its proximity to Edo (present-day Tokyo).
Edo Era (1603-1868 CE): With the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate and the decision to set Edo as the capital, Saitama thrived as a vital hub connecting the capital to northern Japan. The city of Kawagoe, in particular, prospered as a key commercial center, earning its nickname “Little Edo.”
Modernization and Change: Meiji Restoration Onwards (1868-present)
The Meiji Restoration ushered in rapid modernization, with Saitama playing a pivotal role due to its logistics advantage. The establishment of railways and industries accelerated urbanization, with areas like Urawa benefiting from this growth.
In 2001, the status of Saitama was elevated when Urawa, Omiya, and Yono cities merged to form Saitama City, which then became the capital of Saitama Prefecture.
From its ancient past to its bustling present, Saitama’s history is a microcosm of Japan’s broader narrative. With its unique blend of historical landmarks, from ancient temples to samurai-era streets, and its proximity to Tokyo’s modern vibrancy, Saitama stands as a testament to Japan’s enduring spirit and its ability to harmonize the old with the new. Visitors to Saitama are not just exploring a region; they are stepping into a living museum of Japanese history.
source: Tokyo Creative Travel on YouTube
Top 33 Things To Do in Saitama, Japan For Visitors
1. Kawagoe’s Kurazukuri Street: Stroll through the historic streets of Kawagoe, reminiscent of the Edo period. The preserved Kurazukuri (clay-walled warehouse-style) buildings give visitors a taste of old Japan.
2. Kawagoe’s Time Bell Tower (Toki-no-kane): Hear the iconic bell that has rung for over 350 years, symbolizing Kawagoe’s rich history.
3. Railway Museum in Omiya: Dive deep into Japan’s train history, from steam locomotives to modern shinkansen (bullet trains).
4. Saitama Super Arena: Attend a concert, sports event, or exhibition at this state-of-the-art facility.
5. Omiya Bonsai Village: Discover the intricacies of the Japanese art of bonsai with beautifully manicured miniature trees.
6. Chichibu Night Festival: Witness one of Japan’s top three float festivals, held every December, featuring ornate floats and fireworks.
7. Nagatoro River Boating: Experience traditional boat rides down the Arakawa River, enjoying the beautiful landscapes and thrilling rapids.
8. Hikawa Shrine in Omiya: Visit this ancient Shinto shrine believed to bring good luck in love.
9. Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine: Another revered Hikawa Shrine, this one is known for its long approach flanked by tall zelkova trees.
10. Saitama New Urban Center: Enjoy a modern cityscape with shopping centers, restaurants, and recreational facilities.
11. Iwatsuki Castle Park: Explore the remains of Iwatsuki Castle and enjoy a peaceful walk in the surrounding park.
12. Menuma Shodenzan Kangiin Temple: Marvel at this National Treasure, showcasing exquisite carvings and architectural brilliance.
13. Kitain Temple: Visit the only remaining palace buildings from Edo Castle, found within this temple’s grounds.
14. Saitama Aquarium: Discover marine life from around the world, especially the aquatic creatures of the Arakawa River.
15. The Saitama Children’s Zoo: Perfect for families, this zoo offers interactive experiences with various animals.
16. Chichibu Shrine: A historical shrine with intricate carvings, set against the beautiful backdrop of Chichibu’s mountains.
17. Saitama Stadium 2002: Watch a football match at this renowned stadium, built for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
18. Metsä Village: Experience Finnish culture and Nordic lifestyle at this lakeside village, offering crafts, food, and outdoor activities.
19. Chichibu 34 Kannon Sanctuary: Embark on a pilgrimage visiting 34 temples dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of mercy.
20. The John Lennon Museum (closed but historical significance): Though now closed, the museum’s location and its dedication to the iconic musician still draws visitors.
21. Omiya Park: A spacious park featuring a zoo, a museum, and the beautiful Sakura Road lined with cherry blossoms.
22. Saitama Prefecture’s Peace Museum: Reflect on the themes of war and peace at this thought-provoking museum.
23. Ageo Marsh: A tranquil spot perfect for bird watching and enjoying nature.
24. Gongendo Park: Visit in spring for cherry blossoms or summer for lavender and sunflowers.
25. Mitsumine Shrine: Perched in the Chichibu mountains, this shrine offers breathtaking views and a serene ambiance.
26. Shinrin Park: Covering over 304 hectares, this park offers cycling, BBQ areas, and seasonal flower displays.
27. Cocoon City: Shop and dine at this large shopping complex in Saitama City.
28. Kita-Urawa Park: A picturesque park boasting beautiful seasonal flowers, especially roses.
29. Lake Sayama: Enjoy leisure activities like boating and sightseeing around this scenic reservoir.
30. Saitama Museum of Rivers: Learn about the significance of rivers in Japanese culture and their ecosystems.
31. CREA Mall Kawaguchi: A shopping paradise, offering a plethora of dining and entertainment options.
32. Koma Shrine: Historically significant, this shrine is believed to have been established by immigrants from Korea’s Goguryeo Kingdom in the 6th century.
33. Washinomiya Shrine: One of the oldest shrines in the Kanto region, it became popular due to its feature in the anime “Lucky Star.”
From historical streets to modern shopping centers, serene temples to thrilling river adventures, Saitama offers a diverse range of experiences, ensuring every visitor finds something to cherish.
source: Amanda & Felix Eats on YouTube
What To Eat and Drink in Saitama, Japan
Saitama, while often overshadowed by the neighboring culinary giant of Tokyo, boasts its unique palate of flavors rooted deeply in its history, topography, and local produce. From traditional to innovative, let’s embark on a gastronomic journey through the tastes of Saitama.
1. Freshwater Fish Dishes: Due to the Arakawa and Tone rivers flowing through Saitama, freshwater fish like sweetfish (ayu), carp, and eel have been historically significant in the region. Try dishes like ayu no shioyaki (grilled sweetfish) or the rich unadon (grilled eel on rice).
2. Sayama Tea (Sayama-cha): Renowned throughout Japan, Sayama tea has a unique, rich taste due to Saitama’s colder climate. Visit tea plantations, attend a traditional tea ceremony, or simply savor a warm cup at local teahouses.
3. Hiyajiru Udon: This cold udon noodle dish is served with a chilled soy-based soup, perfect for Saitama’s hot summers. Toppings include sesame, ginger, and green onions.
4. Chichibu Miso: This regional variant of miso is darker and richer, often used in dishes like miso potato stew or as a topping on grilled vegetables.
5. Warabi Mochi: Different from the usual mochi, this treat is made from bracken starch and has a jelly-like texture. It’s coated in sweet soybean flour and served with syrup.
6. Fukashi: A traditional sweet from Kawagoe, it’s made from wheat gluten and covered in brown sugar syrup.
7. Sakuraniku (Horse Meat): Chichibu in Saitama is famous for horse meat, served raw as sashimi or cooked in hot pots.
8. Chichibu Meisen Silk Soba: Unique to Chichibu, these soba noodles are made using the wastewater from meisen silk production, giving them a distinct flavor and texture.
More Food From Saitama
9. Straw-grilled Dishes (Warajiya-style): Experience dishes like freshwater fish or mochi grilled over straw, a traditional cooking method of Saitama, imparting a smoky flavor.
10. Dojo Sukui Nabe: A hot pot dish featuring loach, a type of freshwater fish, simmered in a miso-based broth.
11. Saitama Wine: The region’s grape cultivation has paved the way for local wineries. Sample wines, especially from the Katsunuma area.
12. Soka Senbei: These rice crackers from Soka City are thin, crispy, and come in various flavors, from savory soy sauce to sweet sesame.
13. Chichibu Yomatsuri Ramen: Created in honor of the Chichibu Night Festival, this ramen features a soy-based broth with thick noodles.
14. Konnyaku: Made from konjac potatoes, konnyaku has a gelatinous texture and is a staple in many Japanese dishes. Saitama’s Terasaka Tanada area is known for its konnyaku.
15. Local Sake: With several sake breweries in the region, particularly in Chichibu, savor the nuanced flavors of locally-produced sake, which often incorporates the pure waters of Saitama’s mountains.
16. Chichibu Georama Jelly: These fruit jellies are molded to depict the scenic landscapes of Chichibu, both delightful in taste and appearance.
17. Chichibu Whisky: The Chichibu distillery, though relatively new, has earned a global reputation for its finely crafted whiskies.
18. Fruit Juices: With Saitama’s orchards producing fruits like pears, plums, and peaches, fresh fruit juices are a must-try, especially during harvest seasons.
The tastes of Saitama reflect its landscape – from the fresh fish of its rivers to the robust teas of its hilly terrains. As you journey through Saitama, let your taste buds guide you, discovering the delightful harmony of tradition and innovation that defines the region’s culinary landscape.
source: Rion Ishida on YouTube
Top Restaurants In Saitama, Japan
Saitama, with its blend of urban landscapes and verdant nature, offers a rich tapestry of culinary experiences. While the neighboring metropolis of Tokyo often garners most of the international foodie limelight, Saitama has its own collection of dining gems worth exploring. Let’s delve into some of the top restaurants in the region, showcasing the diversity and depth of its culinary scene.
1. Chichibu Miyamoto:
Location: Chichibu City Specialty: Traditional Japanese kaiseki Details: Housed in a beautiful ryokan (Japanese inn), this restaurant offers a seasonal kaiseki experience, where each dish is a work of art, mirroring the local produce and traditions.
Location: Kawagoe Specialty: Unagi (eel) dishes Details: A historic establishment that serves succulent grilled eel dishes, like the famous ‘unadon’ in a nostalgic ambiance, reminiscent of old Japan.
3. Ramen Rin:
Location: Omiya Specialty: Ramen Details: This popular ramen joint offers a rich, flavorful broth and perfectly cooked noodles. Their innovative toppings and side dishes have locals and tourists alike queuing up.
Location: Koshigaya Specialty: Wagyu beef dishes Details: Known for its premium quality wagyu beef sourced from select farms, this restaurant offers an intimate yakiniku (grilled meat) dining experience.
5. Kurazushi Kawagoe:
Location: Kawagoe Specialty: Sushi Details: Serving fresh sushi in a conveyor belt style, it’s a delightful spot to taste a variety of sushi dishes, from classics to seasonal specialties.
6. Chichibu Menkoi:
Location: Chichibu Specialty: Local-style ramen Details: Famous for its Chichibu Yomatsuri Ramen, this establishment offers a delicious soy-based broth with thick, chewy noodles.
7. Cafe & Dining Nove:
Location: Urawa Specialty: Italian-Japanese fusion Details: This chic cafe serves dishes that merge Italian flair with Japanese subtlety. Their pasta dishes, made using local ingredients, are particularly noteworthy.
8. Tsukiya Shokudo:
Location: Hanyu Specialty: Traditional Japanese dishes Details: A cozy eatery offering an array of Japanese classics, from tempura to sashimi, in a homely setting.
9. Iwatsuki Tofuya:
Location: Iwatsuki Specialty: Tofu dishes Details: Celebrating the versatile soybean, this restaurant showcases tofu in a myriad of forms, from silky tofu stews to crispy tofu steaks.
10. Osho Urawa Misono:
Location: Urawa Specialty: Chinese cuisine Details: A part of the popular ‘Osho’ chain, this restaurant offers delicious Chinese staples like gyoza, fried rice, and noodles.
11. Sweets Cafe Peco:
Location: Sayama Specialty: Desserts and pastries Details: Perfect for those with a sweet tooth, this cafe offers a range of scrumptious desserts made using fresh local produce like Sayama tea and seasonal fruits.
Location: Warabi Specialty: Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) Details: A favorite among locals, this yakitori spot grills skewers to perfection, best enjoyed with a cold glass of beer or sake.
13. Le Vin et La Table HOJO:
Location: Ageo Specialty: French cuisine Details: Offering a fine dining experience, this restaurant serves exquisite French dishes paired with an impressive wine selection.
14. Konnyaku Park Restaurant:
Location: Terasaka Tanada Specialty: Konnyaku dishes Details: Situated in Konnyaku Park, this unique restaurant offers dishes showcasing konnyaku’s versatility – from stews to noodles.
15. Yu House:
Location: Okegawa Specialty: Taiwanese cuisine Details: A rare find in Saitama, this establishment serves authentic Taiwanese dishes, from beef noodle soup to bubble tea.
Saitama’s dining landscape is a reflection of its diverse cultural influences, rich history, and commitment to local produce. Whether it’s savoring traditional Japanese dishes or exploring international cuisines, the region offers a cornucopia of flavors waiting to be discovered. As always, when venturing into any culinary destination, some of the best experiences come from exploring the lesser-known local favorites, so keep an open palate and enjoy the journey!
source: Planetyze – Japan Best Spots Travel Guide on YouTube
Tours For Visitors To Saitama, Japan
Kawagoe Walking Tour:
- Historical Walk: Traverse the nostalgic streets of “Little Edo,” admiring its signature kurazukuri (warehouse-style) architecture.
- Landmark Visits: Witness the grandeur of the Time Bell Tower, learn about its significance, and explore the remnants of Kawagoe Castle.
- Local Shopping: Engage with local artisans, shop for traditional souvenirs, and relish street-side snacks.
- Duration: Half-day
Chichibu Night Festival Tour:
- Festival Extravaganza: Revel in the festive spirit of Chichibu Yomatsuri, a winter festival celebrated with grand floats, rhythmic music, and mesmerizing fireworks.
- Cultural Insight: Gain insights into the historical significance of the festival, the stories behind the floats, and the craftspeople who create them.
- Duration: Evening
Sayama Tea Plantation Experience:
- Tea Gardens: Meander through verdant plantations, experience firsthand the meticulous process of plucking the finest tea leaves.
- Tea Ceremony: Absorb the essence of a traditional tea ceremony, understanding its rituals, and relishing the rich flavors of Sayama tea.
- Duration: Half-day
Saitama Nature Trails and Hiking Tours:
- Nagatoro Exploration: Delight in the serene gorges of Nagatoro, participating in river activities and nature walks.
- Mountain Hikes: Ascend trails in the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, with professional guides highlighting local flora, fauna, and scenic viewpoints.
- Duration: Varies (half-day to full-day)
Saitama River Cruises:
- Scenic Views: Gently cruise along the Arakawa and Tone rivers, soaking in the landscapes and spotting local birdlife.
- Themed Experiences: Opt for cruises themed around seasonal events, such as cherry blossom viewing or moon viewing parties.
- Duration: 2-3 hours
Bonsai Art Tour in Omiya:
- Bonsai Village: Discover the intricate world of bonsai in Omiya’s renowned “Bonsai Village,” a hub of gardens, museums, and artisans.
- Hands-on Experience: Attend workshops, engage with bonsai masters, and even craft your own miniature landscape.
- Duration: Half-day
Saitama Culinary Tour:
- Market Walks: Navigate bustling local markets, sampling fresh produce and interacting with vendors.
- Street Food Adventure: Relish Saitama’s street food delicacies, from grilled skewers to sweet pastries.
- Cooking Classes: Engage in hands-on cooking sessions, learning to make regional dishes under expert guidance.
- Duration: Full-day
Saitama Craftsmanship Tours:
- Artisan Workshops: Delve into traditional crafts such as kimono weaving, pottery, and silk production. Engage with local artisans, understanding their skills and passion.
- Crafting Sessions: Participate in sessions where you create your souvenirs, imbibing the essence of Saitama’s artistic heritage.
- Duration: Half-day to full-day
Railway Adventure Tours:
- Retro Rides: Hop onto beautifully preserved trains like the SL Paleo Express, enjoying scenic routes and quaint station stops.
- Railway Museums: Gain insights into Japan’s railway history, technology, and evolution.
- Duration: Half-day
Onsen Retreats in Chichibu:
- Therapeutic Baths: Immerse in the mineral-rich waters of Chichibu’s onsens, soaking in their healing properties.
- Cultural Experience: Understand the etiquettes, history, and significance of onsen culture in Japan. Enjoy traditional ryokan stays, complete with local cuisine.
- Duration: Full-day or overnight
Saitama Museum Hopping:
- Diverse Collections: Visit a range of museums, from the Railway Museum in Omiya to the Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore.
- Interactive Exhibits: Engage with interactive displays, workshops, and guided sessions that bring Saitama’s history and culture alive.
- Duration: Full-day
Saitama Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels
Saitama Prefecture is an attractive destination for both tourists and business travelers. With its rich history, diverse cultural experiences, and accessible natural landscapes, Saitama beckons with its myriad charms. Just as diverse as its attractions are its accommodation options. Here, you’ll find everything from luxurious hotels with impeccable services to cozy guesthouses that offer a taste of local life, and budget-friendly hostels perfect for backpackers. Let’s dive deep into the best accommodations that Saitama has to offer.
- Urawa Royal Pines Hotel:
Location: In the heart of Urawa, easily accessible to the Saitama Super Arena. Features: Elegant rooms with city views, multiple dining options including a rooftop restaurant, a spa, and fitness facilities. Best For: Business travelers and those seeking a lavish stay.
- Ofuro Cafe Utatane:
Location: Kita Ward. Features: A unique blend of a modern hotel with traditional Japanese onsen (hot springs). It offers relaxation spaces, manga libraries, and a café. Best For: Those looking for a combination of luxury and traditional relaxation.
Mid-Range Hotels and Ryokans
- Candeo Hotels Omiya:
Location: Close to Omiya Station. Features: Modern amenities, rooftop onsen, a comfortable lounge, and a buffet breakfast. Best For: Families and couples seeking comfort without a hefty price tag.
- Ryokan Matsumuraya:
Location: Kawagoe. Features: An authentic Japanese inn experience with tatami mat rooms, futon bedding, and traditional meals served in-room. Best For: Travelers wanting a taste of traditional Japanese hospitality.
Guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts
- Guest House Cat:
Location: Kawagoe. Features: A homely environment with shared kitchen facilities, free WiFi, and bicycles for rent. The decor is, as the name suggests, cat-themed. Best For: Solo travelers and those looking to engage with other travelers.
- Koedo Guesthouse Osawa:
Location: Close to Hon-Kawagoe Station. Features: Traditional wooden architecture, communal spaces for interaction, and a warm, home-like atmosphere. Best For: Those seeking a more intimate and local experience.
Budget Hostels and Dormitories
- Kawagoe Hostel Fukuro:
Location: A short walk from Kawagoe Station. Features: Clean dormitory-style rooms, shared lounges, kitchen facilities, and a friendly atmosphere. Best For: Backpackers and budget travelers.
- Guesthouse Saitama:
Location: Near Urawa Station. Features: Basic amenities, individual lockers, communal spaces for relaxation and interaction, and a helpful staff. Best For: Young travelers and those on a tight budget.
- Saitama Container House:
Location: In the tranquil outskirts. Features: An eco-friendly stay built from shipping containers, providing a blend of modern design and sustainability. Best For: Adventurous travelers looking for a unique accommodation experience.
- Chichibu Night Glamping:
Location: Amidst the scenic beauty of Chichibu. Features: Luxurious tents equipped with modern amenities, outdoor BBQ facilities, and a panoramic view of the starry skies. Best For: Nature lovers and couples seeking a romantic getaway.
Saitama’s range of accommodations ensures that every traveler, regardless of their preferences or budget, finds a place that feels like home. Whether you’re soaking in the luxuries of a high-end hotel, experiencing the rustic charm of a traditional ryokan, or making new friends in a bustling hostel, Saitama welcomes you with unparalleled hospitality. So, choose your stay, unpack your bags, and let the adventures in Saitama begin!
Saitama 3-4 Days Travel Itinerary
Saitama, the verdant jewel just north of Tokyo, is a delightful juxtaposition of old-world charm and modern wonders. From the historical streets of Kawagoe to the serene nature of Chichibu, a 3-4 day visit ensures a wholesome experience of its many facets. Here’s an enriching itinerary to ensure you make the most of your time.
Day 1: Dive into History in Kawagoe
- Kawagoe Castle (Honmaru Goten): Begin your day by visiting the remains of Kawagoe Castle. Walk through the Honmaru Goten, the sole surviving structure, and admire its architectural elegance.
- Kurazukuri Zone: Wander through Kawagoe’s iconic warehouse district. The old clay-walled buildings transport you back to the Edo period.
- Kashiya Yokocho (Candy Alley): Indulge your sweet tooth with traditional candies and snacks. Witness how artisans prepare these delicacies and purchase some as souvenirs.
- Time Bell Tower (Tokino-Kane): Marvel at this 16th-century clock tower, an emblematic landmark of Kawagoe. If timed right, hear its bell chime, which rings four times a day.
- Dinner at a local restaurant: Savor Kawagoe’s specialty – sweet potato dishes, from fries to desserts.
- Night stroll in Kurazukuri Zone: Many of the historical buildings are illuminated post-sunset, providing a magical ambiance.
Day 2: Nature and Spirituality in Chichibu
- Chichibu Shrine: Begin with a visit to this 1000-year-old shrine. Marvel at its intricately carved doors, which are designated national treasures.
- Nagatoro River Boating: Experience a thrilling traditional riverboat ride through the scenic rapids of the Arakawa River.
- Chichibu Muse Park: Picnic amidst blooming flowers. Depending on the season, witness cherry blossoms, azaleas, or autumn colors.
- Hodosan Shrine: Visit this historic shrine located at the base of Mt. Hodo. Consider taking the ropeway or hiking up the mountain for panoramic views.
- Chichibu Night Market: If visiting during the right season, immerse yourself in the local night market experience.
- Dinner at a local Izakaya: Relish regional dishes complemented by local sake.
Day 3: Modern Wonders and Leisure Activities
- Railway Museum in Omiya: Learn about Japan’s extensive railway history. Engage with interactive exhibits and even try out train simulators.
- Omiya Bonsai Village: Delve into the art of bonsai. Wander through the village, visit multiple gardens, and perhaps attend a bonsai workshop.
- Saitama Super Arena: Depending on events, catch a concert, sports game, or exhibition at one of Japan’s largest multipurpose arenas.
- Shopping at Cocoon City: Explore this expansive shopping complex in Saitama City. Dine at one of its many restaurants offering global cuisines.
Day 4: Relaxation and Farewell
- Sayama Hills (Totoro Forest): Enjoy a peaceful walk in this lush forest, which inspired Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro. Listen to birdsong and reconnect with nature.
- Spa Resort President: After days of exploring, rejuvenate at this spa resort. Experience various baths, saunas, and relaxation spaces.
- Farewell Dinner at Ofuro Cafe Utatane: Have a sumptuous dinner at this unique café that’s part onsen, part hotel, and part restaurant. Reflect on your Saitama memories.
- Ensure you have a Suica or Pasmo card for easy train and bus commutes.
- Saitama’s attractions are spread out. Consider renting a bicycle in certain areas for a more intimate exploration.
- Always check the seasonal events or festivals as they might offer unique experiences.
Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or someone seeking modern entertainment, Saitama promises a myriad of experiences. Pack your bags and let the journey unfold!
source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube
Where To Visit After Your Trip To Saitama?
After immersing yourself in the captivating blend of history, nature, and modernity in Saitama, you might be wondering where to set your sights next. Japan, with its multifaceted allure, offers a plethora of destinations that can be a perfect extension to your journey. Here’s a curated list of recommended places to visit post-Saitama:
Only a short train ride away, Tokyo, the bustling capital, offers a contrasting experience to Saitama’s serenity.
- Shinjuku: From shopping to nightlife, this energetic district never sleeps. Don’t miss the view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
- Asakusa: Home to the iconic Senso-ji Temple and Nakamise Street lined with traditional shops.
- Odaiba: A futuristic entertainment hub with attractions like TeamLab Borderless, a digital art museum, and the replica Statue of Liberty.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Nikko offers rich history amid breathtaking natural scenery.
- Toshogu Shrine: A lavishly decorated shrine and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
- Kegon Falls: One of Japan’s most stunning waterfalls.
- Lake Chuzenji: A scenic lake perfect for boat rides and relaxation.
Known for its hot springs and views of Mount Fuji, it’s a quintessential onsen destination.
- Hakone Open-Air Museum: A sprawling park showcasing contemporary sculptures.
- Hakone Shrine: A tranquil shrine nestled by the shores of Lake Ashi.
- Owakudani: A volcanic valley known for its sulfur vents and black egg delicacy.
Preserving samurai and geisha districts, Kanazawa offers a slice of Japan’s feudal past.
- Kenrokuen Garden: One of Japan’s top three gardens, known for its beauty in all seasons.
- 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art: A revolutionary museum with interactive installations.
- Higashi Chaya District: Traditional tea houses where you can experience a geisha performance.
Whether it’s the snow festivals in winter or temple visits, Nagano is an all-season destination.
- Jigokudani Monkey Park: Watch snow monkeys bathe in natural hot springs.
- Zenko-ji Temple: A historic Buddhist temple attracting pilgrims and tourists alike.
- Togakushi: Known for its shrine, soba noodles, and ninja museum.
The former capital of Japan, Kyoto is the heart of traditional Japanese culture and history.
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple: Famous for its wooden terrace offering panoramic city views.
- Fushimi Inari Shrine: Walk through thousands of vermilion torii gates.
- Gion: Kyoto’s geisha district, best explored in the evening.
A food lover’s paradise, Osaka blends modernity with tradition.
- Dotonbori: A lively district known for its neon lights, entertainment, and street food.
- Osaka Castle: A historic castle surrounded by a moat and park.
- Universal Studios Japan: A popular theme park with thrilling rides and shows.
A symbol of peace and resilience, Hiroshima, with its history and culture, offers an emotionally rich experience.
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: Visit the A-Bomb Dome, the only structure left standing near the bomb’s hypocenter, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Hiroshima Castle: Reconstructed after the atomic bombing, it stands as a testament to Hiroshima’s resilience.
- Shukkeien Garden: A picturesque garden that showcases Japan’s miniature landscaping artistry.
Japan’s tropical paradise, Okinawa offers sandy beaches and a unique Ryukyuan culture distinct from the mainland.
- Shurijo Castle: Once the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom, a blend of Japanese and Chinese architecture.
- Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium: Home to large whale sharks and a rich array of marine life.
- Kokusai Dori: A bustling street filled with shops, restaurants, and live entertainment.
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Japan’s first permanent capital, Nara is replete with historic treasures, including temples and art.
- Todai-ji Temple: Renowned for the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue.
- Nara Park: A vast parkland where free-roaming deer are considered messengers of the gods.
- Kofuku-ji Temple: A UNESCO site, notable for its five-storied pagoda.
Just south of Tokyo, Yokohama is Japan’s second-largest city, known for its beautiful port, modern attractions, and rich history.
- Sankeien Garden: A traditional Japanese-style garden with seasonal flowers and historical buildings.
- Yokohama Chinatown: The largest Chinatown in Japan, offering a range of culinary delights.
- Landmark Tower: Japan’s second tallest building, boasting a magnificent observatory with sweeping views of the city.
As the gateway to Kyushu, Fukuoka is a vibrant city combining ancient temples with modern architecture.
- Hakata Ramen: Indulge in the city’s famous culinary creation at a local Yatai (street food stall).
- Ohori Park: A serene oasis in the city, perfect for leisurely strolls.
- Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine: A picturesque shrine dedicated to the god of learning.
Known as the “City of Trees,” Sendai offers a harmonious blend of urban life and verdant landscapes, and it’s the largest city in the Tohoku region.
- Sendai Castle (Aoba Castle) Ruins: While the castle itself no longer stands, the panoramic view of the city from its grounds is worth the visit.
- Zuihoden Mausoleum: The resting place of Date Masamune, reflecting the exquisite Edo-period architectural style.
- Jozenji Street: A tree-lined boulevard with statues, shops, and cafés, perfect for a leisurely stroll.
Often referred to as the “Naples of Japan” because of its bayside location and the looming Sakurajima volcano.
- Sakurajima: One of Japan’s most active volcanoes, offering hot spring foot baths and observation points.
- Sengan-en Garden: A historic garden with views of Sakurajima and Kagoshima Bay.
- Shirahama Aquarium: Discover marine life from the Kuroshio current and even interact with dolphins.
This tranquil city in the Nagano Prefecture is home to one of Japan’s most famous original castles and offers a doorway to the Japanese Alps.
- Matsumoto Castle: An iconic black-colored castle with its origins dating back to the 16th century.
- Nawate Street: A charming shopping street reminiscent of the post-war era.
- Kamikochi: A scenic highland valley within the Japanese Alps, ideal for hiking and nature appreciation.
Ishikawa Prefecture, on the Japan Sea coast, is known for traditional arts, fresh seafood, and onsen towns.
- Kanazawa: Visit Kenrokuen Garden and the historic geisha district of Higashi-Chaya.
- Wajima: Explore its morning market and appreciate the intricate Wajima-nuri lacquerware.
- Kaga Onsen: Soak in the hot springs after a day of exploring.
Located in Mie Prefecture, it’s known for the Ise Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s holiest Shinto sites, and its stunning coastal landscapes.
- Ise Grand Shrine: A serene spiritual complex with inner and outer shrines surrounded by ancient forests.
- Ama Huts: Experience a meal prepared by Ama divers, who have been diving for seafood for centuries.
- Meoto Iwa (Wedded Rocks): Two sacred rocks in the sea, symbolizing the union of creator gods.
Nestled in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, Takayama is known for its well-preserved old town and biannual festivals.
- Sanmachi Street: Wander through the historic lanes filled with Edo-period homes, sake breweries, and craft shops.
- Takayama Festival: Experience one of Japan’s most beautiful festivals, held in April and October.
- Shirakawa-go: A nearby village renowned for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are over 250 years old.
From the neon-lit streets of Tokyo to the traditional alleys of Kyoto, each destination offers a unique narrative. Depending on your interests—whether it’s history, nature, art, or cuisine—you can choose your next adventure in Japan after Saitama. Always remember to respect local customs, and as the Japanese proverb goes, “Even a road of thousand miles begins with a single step.” Happy travels!
Saitama Travel Guide: Final Thoughts
After embarking on an in-depth journey exploring Saitama’s myriad charms, from its historical treasures and scenic landscapes to its modern amenities and rich culinary offerings, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the essence of this incredible destination and what makes it a must-visit spot in Japan.
A Resonant Blend of History and Modernity
Saitama, just a stone’s throw away from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, stands as a testament to Japan’s unique ability to blend tradition with progress. As we’ve seen, in places like Kawagoe, you can be transported back to the Edo period, with its Kurazukuri warehouses and old-world charm. In stark contrast, Saitama City offers skyscrapers and modern urban experiences, showcasing the prefecture’s dynamic range.
The Gentle Embrace of Nature
Amidst the urbanity, Saitama surprises with its lush embrace of nature. The Chichibu region, with its serene mountains and vibrant festivals, is a reminder of Japan’s deep-rooted connection with its natural environment. From the riverside beauty of Nagatoro to the flower fields of Musashi Kyuryo National Government Park, Saitama offers a breath of fresh air, literally and metaphorically.
A Culinary Palette Waiting to Be Explored
Japanese cuisine is renowned worldwide for its intricate flavors and meticulous presentation. In Saitama, one doesn’t just get a taste of traditional Japanese fare but also unique local delicacies. From the freshwater unagi dishes to the local sake brewed from pristine waters, Saitama’s culinary journey is as much about its local produce as it is about age-old recipes passed down generations.
Accessibility and Connectivity
One of Saitama’s undeniable advantages is its connectivity. Being neighboring Tokyo offers travelers easy accessibility without the overwhelming hustle of the mega city. Efficient rail networks, including the famed Shinkansen, ensure that travelers can use Saitama as both a destination and a launchpad for broader Japanese adventures.
A Hub of Cultural Festivities
Every corner of Japan is home to a multitude of festivals, and Saitama is no exception. Whether it’s the vibrant floats of the Chichibu Night Festival or the springtime euphoria of the cherry blossom festivals, these events offer travelers a chance to immerse themselves in local culture, traditions, and communal celebrations.
Conclusion: The Unsung Gem
Saitama often flies under the radar of many international tourists, overshadowed by its colossal neighbor, Tokyo. However, as we’ve delved deeper into its facets, it’s clear that Saitama is not just a side note but a main chapter in the grand narrative of Japan. Its harmonious blend of the old and new, city and nature, and gastronomy and artistry offers a holistic Japanese experience.
For travelers looking to explore Japan beyond the clichés, Saitama stands as a testament to the fact that sometimes the most enchanting tales are whispered, not shouted. It beckons with a promise of discovery, urging you to explore its streets, savor its flavors, and weave your own stories into its rich tapestry. Happy travels and may Saitama leave an indelible mark on your heart!
Whispers of Saitama
In the shadow of Tokyo’s gleaming spires,
Lies a land where past and present conspires.
Saitama, a realm of contrasts and tales,
Where the pulse of history never fails.
River Nagatoro’s gentle flow,
Whispers stories of long ago.
Kawagoe’s lanes, where footsteps tread,
Echo with voices of the days long dead.
Mountains of Chichibu rise so high,
Kissing the canvas of the azure sky.
Amidst the bustling city’s scream,
Fields of flowers silently dream.
A traveler’s heart, in search of more,
Finds in Saitama an open door.
For in its streets, its food, its wine,
Beats a rhythm, ancient and fine.
So come, wanderer, to this land apart,
Let Saitama etch upon your heart.
A tale of beauty, tradition, and grace,
In every corner, find an embrace.