Tokyo’s northern neighbor blends fun cities with spectacular mountain landscapes, flower-filled countryside, outdoor pursuits and time-honored Japanese customs.
Visit Saitama prefecture to experience fascinating cultures alongside unblemished natural beauty just a short distance from Tokyo. While the eastern areas of Saitama prefecture are classed as suburbs of Japan’s capital, centuries-old traditions and thrill-seeking adventures thrive amid the mountainous west.
The prefectural capital Saitama is the birthplace of unagi kabayaki (grilled eel) and tofu ramen. Wander through Omiya Park for cherry blossom trees, the 2,000-year-old Hikawa Shrine and Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore. The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Railway Museum and Saitama Manga Museum are among other excellent museums. Watch J-pop concerts at Saitama Super Arena and a soccer match at Saitama Stadium.
Travel east to the Edo-era castle town of Kawagoe, where Kurazukuri merchant houses line atmospheric streets. Browse artisanal confectionary shops on Candy Alley and marvel at more than 500 statues of Buddha disciples adorning the Kita-in Temple. Close to the town, Kazo City is famous for its collection of over 40 udon (wheat flour noodle soup) shops. In Hidaka, Mount Hiwada is the starting point for a day hike through forests, to shrines and across Mount Takasasu and Mount Monomi.
Go boating, kayaking and whitewater rafting on the Nagatoro River. Admire the Nagatoro Iwadatami Rocks and learn about regional dinosaurs at Saitama Museum of Natural History in Nagatoro city. The exquisite Hodosan Shrine sits at the foot of Mount Hodosan. Take a ropeway to the mountaintop, where Nagatoro Hodosan Wintersweet Garden astounds with thousands of wintersweet and plum trees.
Chichibu, the westernmost city, is the gateway to the Chichibu Kannon Pilgrimage, which connects 34 mountain temples. Reach the city aboard the Paleo Express steam locomotive from Kumagaya. Delight in Shibazakura Hill’s springtime bloom, the warm fall colors of Muse Park and Nakatsu Gorge and the natural frozen art of the Misotsuchi Icicles.
Trains depart from Tokyo Station for most major cities of the Saitama prefecture. Time your visit to coincide with October’s Kawagoe Festival and December’s Chichibu Night Festival, among other extravagant annual events.