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Saifama

National Capital functions with 18 national government agencies - Town architecture with the 19th century buildings and many traditional performing arts
Saitama is an inland prefecture at the center of the Kanto Region to the north of Tokyo. Historically, it was part of Musashi-no-kuni with most of the areas in contemporary Tokyo. It became the major supplier of food to the metropolitan Tokyo from the 17th century, and has long maintained close relationship with Tokyo. All areas of the prefecture are within 100 km from Tokyo, and its geographical location is advantageous in business, living and cultural events. In May 2000, a futuristic city, the Saitama New Urban Center, was developed over 3 cities namely Urawa, Yono and Omiya, where 18 national administration agencies were transferred. Saitama continues to develop into part of the national capital region.

Saitama celebrates Chichibu Yomatsuri night Festival where 6 floats mounted with a decorative halberd march with lively and soul-stirring Chichibu Yatai-Hayashi music. This is one of the three major float parades in Japan along with the famous Gion-matsuri Festival in Kyoto. There is also the Saibara-Kagura Festival at the Washinomiya-jinjya Shrine, which is designated as an important intangible folk cultural property, as well as many other historical performing arts of public entertainment. Other must-see scenic sights include Nagatoro with breathtaking precipices, Kuroyama-santaki Falls(Mt. Kuroyama Three Falls) in a solemn atmosphere, and a castle town Kawagoe where you can enjoy a classic long bonneted bus tour through the 19th century buildings and streets lined with traditional stuccoed storehouses.

Getting there
Thirty-eight minutes from Tokyo Station to Urawa Station by JR Keihin-tohoku Line.
 

  • Chichibu and Nagatoro
    Chichibu, a historic town embraced by mountains - Nagatoro, beautiful rock beds and precipitous cliffs
    Located within the Chichibu-Tama National Park in the western Saitama, Chichibu City has developed as the trading center for silk fabrics around the Chichibu-jinja Shrine. The Chichibu-jinja Shrine is said to have built more than 2,000 years ago. At the Chichibu Yomatsuri night Festival held every winter here, light from numerous lanterns hung from the floats and thousands of firework displays cast beautiful colors to the night sky. Chichibu 34 Kan'non Sanctuary is one of the 100 sacred kannon temples in Japan, and the pilgrimage path is 100 km long from the 1st Simabu-ji Temple to the 34th Suisen-ji Temple.

    The entire town of Nagatoro at the north of Chichibu is designated as a prefectural nature park, and the Ara-kawa River runs through the center of the town. There is a natural monument, 5 km-long rock bedded bank along the river near the railway station, which is a precious material in learning the earliest history of the earth. You can directly appreciate the beauty of the gorge of Nagatoro by a riverboat. A boatman steers a small boat with a pole and takes you downstream in the Ara-kawa River with varying rapid and slow currents. You can enjoy the views of the rock beds and precipitous cliffs called Chichibu-Sekiheki, or red walls of Chichibu.

    Getting there
    Take by JR Yamanote Line for 24 minutes from Tokyo Station to Ikebukuro Station. Then transfer to Seibu Line for 1 hour and 23 minutes from Ikebukuro Station to Seibu-Chichibu Station. It takes 20 minutes from Seibu-Chichibu Station to Nagatoro Station.

     

  • Gyoda
    Integrated historical sites, parks and nature - Rare row of ancient burial mounds
    Gyoda City is located in the north Saitama. It developed as a castle town of the Oshi Castle built in 1490. There remain 9 large size ancient tombs built before the 7th century around the pastoral Saitama area.

    Sakitama Fudoki-no-oka Hill is a vast historic park with the area of 300,000 m dotted with large size ancient tombs including a tomb of ancient potentates Mt. Maruhaka-yama, one of the largest round burial mounds in Japan. At Mt. Shogun-yama, a 91-meter long burial mound that is square at the head and rounded at the foot, there is a display room of its interior where the stone cave hut and excavated articles are restored to their original conditions in the 5th to 7th centuries. Every spring, they celebrate a fire festival which symbolizes the myth that the ancient goddess of Japan gave births in fire.

    The traditional industry of Gyoda is production of tabi socks that are indispensable in the kimono culture of Japan, and its share in the market is nearly 50%. You can learn the details of the history and culture of Gyoda at the Gyoda City provincial museum, where there is the exhibition on the everyday life of the castle town in the olden days and the tabi making process with actual materials and panels.

    Getting there
    Take JR Yamanote Line for 8 minutes from Tokyo Station to Ueno Station. Then transfer to JR Takasaki Line for 1 hour and 6 minutes from Ueno Station to Gyoda Station.

     

  • Iwatsuki
    The 700 cherry trees of Iwatsuki Castle grounds bloom in spring - City of dolls since the 17th century
    Iwatsuki is located approximately at the center of the Kanto Plain. It prospered not only as the castle town around Iwatsuki Castle, but also as a post town on the Nikko-Kaido Road(a road from Edo, the former Tokyo to Nikko). The castle grounds have been converted into Iwatsuki-koen Park. The spring season is beautiful when the 700 cherry trees bloom around Shobu-ike Pond, or the iris pond, especially viewed from Yatsuhashi Bridge with its red parapets, and crowds of people come to enjoy the cherry blossoms. Toki-no-Kane, or the "Time-keeping Bell", which still rings twice a day, reminds us of the old days as a castle town.

    Doll-making started around the 17th century in Iwatsuki and became famous with the production of Hina-ningyo dolls for the girls' celebrations in March and Gogatsu-ningyo dolls for the boys' celebrations in May.

    From dolls made 300 years ago during the Edo Period up to contemporary ones, samurai dolls with fierce expressions, Gogatsu-ningyo wearing armor, karakuri-ningyo mechanical dolls and antique dolls from abroad are all exhibited in Iwatsuki Ningyo Hakubutsukan (doll museum). At the workshop adjacent to the museum, visitors can watch doll-making or even try out making one themselves.

    Getting there
    From Tokyo Station, 47 minutes by JR Keihin-tohoku Line to Omiya Station. From Omiya Station, 15 minutes by Tobu Noda Line to Iwatsuki Station.

     

  • Kawagoe
    Simple traditional sweets - City called "Little Edo" with rows of historical storehouses
    Located in the center of Saitama, Kawagoe City flourished as a castle town in the Edo period (1603 -1867). It is designated as an important preservation districts for groups of historic buildings where rows of magnificent merchants' houses in a historical stuccoed storehouse style stand side by side. It is called Koedo, or "Little Edo", because of its city architecture. The feudal lord of the Kawagoe-jo Castle ordered to build a bell tolling the time in the 17th century. The bell has been rebuilt several times, and the present 4th generation bell is a symbol of Kawagoe together with the streets lined with traditional storehouses.

    The area around Saiwai-cho, Moto-machi and Naka-machi with the Ichibangai or the first street at the center is one of the oldest towns in the Kanto Region, where houses including a mansion of draper, Osawa family and other palatial houses remain. Kitain Temple boasts Kyakuden, a reception hall and Sho-in, a study hall, both of which are important cultural properties, and you can also see Gohyakurakan(Five hundred rakans), Buddhist images modeled after 500 Buddha's disciples.


    Another specialty of Kawagoe is Kshiya-yokocho, a confectionary lane. It is 5 minutes walk from Fudanotsuji bus stop. Shops of Japanese candies, sweet potato cakes, rice crackers and other snacks stand in a row on both sides of a stone-paved lane. Their simple, nostalgic taste will satisfy both your tongue and heart. The Kawagoe-matsuri Festival celebrated in autumn is one of best three festivals in Kanto region. You will see exquisitely decorated 7-meter tall floats parading the city.

    Getting there
    Take JR Yamanote Line for 24 minutes from Tokyo Station to Ikebukuro Station, and transfer to Tobu Line express for 33 minutes from Ikebukuro Station to Kawagoe Station.

     

  • Saitama New Urban Center
    Pleasant harmony of the past and future - The newest downtown of Saitama
    Saitama New Urban Center (Saitama Shin-toshin) that spans Urawa, Yono and Omiya Cities at the southeast Saitama celebrated its birth on May 5, 2000 at the site where a switchyard of the former Japan National Railway once stood. It is the core area for the administration and culture of Saitama in the 21st century.
    Saitama New Urban City area is a megalopolis that houses national government agencies, Saitama Super Arena, restaurants and shopping streets where 57,000 people are employed. Curved white tube-like roofs welcomes you when you get out of the station. Boardwalks with no steps link all corners of downtown. Unique statues stand here and there, giving off the futuristic atmosphere. Among those ultra-modern structures, the greenery of 220 zelkova trees heal your eyes in the Keyaki-hiroba Park created especially to convey the image of a copse of the Musashi-no Plain, which once covered the entire Kanto Region.

    Saitama Super Arena can transform itself from a hall with a capacity of 5,000 to a stadium for 37,000 spectators with the world largest moving blocks. On the 4th and 5th floors, the world first John Lennon Museum opened in October 2000 attracting worldwide attention.

    Getting there
    Forty-four minutes from Tokyo Station to Saitama Shintoshin Station by JR Keihintohoku Line.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.

 

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