Saitama prefecture has the 5th largest population in Japan which is about 7300’000. The area is about 103 km from west to east, 52km from north to south thus it’s about 3800㎢. Saitama offers a lot from a very cosmopolitan city like Saitama city to a nice green suburban area like Chichibu.
Saitama prefecture still keeps nostalgic Edo time period atmosphere amongst their sightseeing spots: Koedo and Kawagoe with old Sake brewers districts, Chichibu area with great nature with rivers and mountains and a well known Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine where people pray for successful relationships.
There are famous festivals such as Chichibu. Night Festival in December and Kawagoe Festival in October. Visitors can do so much by walking around in Saitama Prefecture: enjoying historical vibe, visiting religious places and taking in the wild.
- 10th Omiya Bonsai Art Museum
- 9th Mitsumine Shrine
- 8th Sakitama Kofun Park
- 7th Tove Jansson Akebono Children’s Forest Park
- 6th Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine
- 5th Kitain Temple
- 4th The Railway Museum
- 3rd Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street
- 2nd Totoro Forest
- 1st Menuma Shodenzan Kangi-in
1. Spot ranking in Saitama area
10th. Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama | Omiya – Urawa area
In1923, Great Kantō earthquake occurred, Tokyo’s Bonsai business relocated to Omiya (Saitama city) due to its fresh water and air quality for Bonsai harvesting. They eventually became Omiya Bonsai village. Near the village, there is Omiya Bonsai Art Museum where people can see the best exhibition of Bonsai.
They host many special exhibitions and lectures; they promote Bonsai Art to all over the world. At this museum, visitors are also able to learn history and technique of Bonsai. Moreover, there is Bonsai garden where 40-50 bonsai trees are on display. Visitors can enjoy bonsai trees as much as they can comparing them from the front to back. The biggest bonsai tree in this museum would be “Chiyo-no-matsu” (Japanese Five Needle Pine), its 1.6 m in height and 1.8m in width.
The entrance fee is 300 yen for an adult, 150 yen for a student /a senior citizen. The opening time would be 3rd ～10th month 9am～4:30pm （last entrance 4pm）、11th ～2rd month 9am～4pm（last entrance 3:30pm)
The best access would be from the Omiya station, take JR Utsunomiya Line to Toro Station, exit from east exit and walk about 5 min.
9th. Mitsumine Shrine | Chichibu – Nagatoro area
Mitsumine Shrine is located in the middle of Mitsumine Mountain (one of three Chichibu mountains and its height is 1,100 meters above sea level); it’s known as a power spot. They have a long history; it started when the Yamato Takeru, (a son of Emperor Keikō, who is traditionally counted as the 12th Emperor of Japan) passed by here on his way to visit Eastern Japan.
He was so impressed by the natural beauty of this area and left the presence of the god (Izanagi god)and goddess (Izanami goddess) who created Japan. He prayed for the forever peace for his country here; this was the start of this holy place. Their Sacred gate Torii is very unique because its deign of three gates made it one. Both sides of the gate, there are statues of their holy animal wolf. Their main building was built in 1661, its copper roofing and wooden structure make visitors feel god’s omnipotence.
Their worship building was built in 1800 and renovated in 1962. On its ceiling, there is a gorgeous painting of more than 100 local plants and flowers. On its paper sliding doors, there is a painting of Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove which creates its profound vibe. If there is an extra time to spend, visitors shall visit their Okumiya (other shrines inside a property of a main shrine). From the Okumiya, visitors can enjoy the great view.
There is a museum where visitors can learn its history and see some of its treasures. The museum is open from 9 am to 4 pm. The entrance fee is 300 yen for an adult and 100 yen for a child under 15. The entance for the shrine is free.
The best access would be from Seibu Chichibu station, take an express bus Destination :Mitsumine Shrine, the duration would be about 90 min.
8th. Sakitama Kofun Park | Kumagaya – Gyoda area
Gyoda town is located in the northern part of Saitama Prefecture. There are many Kofuns that made this area well-known in Japan. Inside their 320’000㎡ land, there are about 33 kofuns in many different seizes. In 1934, this area was made in to a national historical Hill to protect Kofuns and in 1976, it became present Sakitama Kofun Park. The biggest and 1st to found Inariyama Kofun was built around 500AD, it’s a keyhole-shaped kofun. The full length of the tomb is 120m and the height is about 12m.
The Maruhakayama Kofun has the width of about 105m, it is one of the biggest circle Kofuns in Japan; this was built around 600AD. Around this Kofun, there are many cherry trees which would create great cherry blossom in the season. Futagoyama Kofun, Teppouyama Kofun and Shogunyama Kofun are some other Kofuns in the park. Saitama Prefectural Museum of the Sakitama Ancient Burial Mounds exhabits many items that were excavated from those Kofuns: National treasure kinsakumei tekken and Gamontaikanjounyuushinjyukyo (mirror).
The park entrance is free but the entrance to the museum is 200 yen for an adult and 100 yen for a student. (under 15 is free) The museum opening time is 9～16:30（last entry is 16:00), 1st of July ～31st of August 9～17（the last entry 16:30).
The best access would be from JR Kumagaya station, take train to JR Fukiage Station. At the station, exit from the north exit then take Asahi Bus Destination: Via Sakuma, Gyodaorikaeshiba / Saitama Prefectural Education Center/
Gyoda industrial estate, get off at Sangyo Street, walk to the park about 15 min. Or from JR Kumagaya station take train to JR Gyoda station, exit from east exit, then take the city circulation bus sightseeing-bound service,(150 yen) get off at Sakitama Kofun Park and walk about 2 min.
7th. Tove Jansson Akebono Children’s Forest Park | Tokorozawa – Iruma area
Tove Jansson Akebono Children’s Forest Park offers a great relaxing place for everyone. It was opened in 1997 and it has been attaching everyone beyond their age group. This park was created due to letters exchange with Tove Jansson, Finnish illustrator who created The Moomins. Tove Jansson wanted to create a place where people of all ages and nature except each other and co-exist in harmony.
Inside of the park, there is a mushroom house; in side the house, Tove Jansson exhibition on the 1st floor, a library on the 2nd floor and a multi-propose hall, are there. The park is open from 9:00～17:00. The park entrance is free.
The best access would be get Motokaji Station from Seibu Ikebukuro Line Tokorozawa Station, then walk about 20 min. The other way would be get Hannō Station or Higashi-Hannō Station (JR and Seibu Ikebukuro Line) from Seibu Ikebukuro Line Tokorozawa Station, then about 4 km away.
6th. Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine | Omiya – Urawa area
Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine is the main brunch of 280 brunches Hikawa Shrines in Kanto region. Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine has 2400 years history; people respect that. Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine is also known for its power for relationship. Its area is about 99,173.6㎡ and the entrance path would stretch about 2km. Along side of the path, there are 650 different types of Japanese Zelkova trees.
Their main building has a signature copper roofing. Their Monkyaku Shrine, Atsuma shrine and Mitake Shrine are registered as Designated cultural assets of the city. Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine is located not far from Omiya station. There are Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore, Omiya Bonsai village and the Railway Museum near by thus people shall check them out if their time allow.
Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine has different opening time, depending on month; 3rd 、4th 、9th 、10th months would be 5:30～17:30、5th ～8th months would be 5:00～18:00、1st 、2nd 、11th 、and 12th months would be 6:00～17:00. If visitors would like to purchase holy items or ask for a special service, the office is open from 8:30～16:30. The entrance is free.
The best access would be walk from JR Omiya station east exit; duration would be about 15 min.
5th. Kitain Temple | Kawagoe area
Kitain Temple’s full name is Seiyasan Muryoujyuji Kitain Temple. It was opened in 830 by Jikaku Daishi who was a monk of the Tendai school of Buddhism in Japan. In early Edo Period, the famous monk Tenkai was a leader of this temple. The memorial buildings of Iemitsu Tokugawa who was the third shōgun of the Tokugawa dynasty, and Lady Kasuga, were moved here. There are many more historical and cultural valuables that belong to this temple. Due to those facts, this temple was well known all over Japan.
Since Iemitsu Tokugawa ordered monk Tenkai to be the 27th monk of this temple, it made huge improvement. Iemitsu Tokugawa moved his luxury decorated birth room (Kyakuden) and (Shoin) a make-up room of Lady Kasuga (his nanny) to this temple. Moreover, their Jigendo, Syurou and Sanmon are registered as Important Cultural Property. Next to the temple, there is Senba Tōshō-gū. This shinto shrine enshrines Ieyasu Tokugawa because it was built for a part of his funeral. It is enumerated as one of the Three Great Tōshō-gū Shrines. This temple has a very strong connection with Tokugawa family and Edo time period.
Gohyakurakan is 540 statues of Arhat, ( in Buddhism, a perfected person), it exhibits 500 plus different facial expressions. Gohyakurakan is one of three best Arhat statues in Japan. it attracts many visitors. In January, there is Daruma Festival; in February, there is Setsubun Festival. Moreover, there is Cherry Blossom Festival in Spring. They offer many seasonal sceneries. In autumn, visitors would be able to see great colour change of leaves which would take place from the middle of November to the middle of December.
The entrance to the temple costs 400 yen for an adult, 200 yen for a child under 15. The opening time would be 8：50～16：30 during weekdays（1st of March ～23rd of November）、8：50～16：00（24th of November ～ end of February ）、Sundays and holidays 8：50～16：50（1st of March ～23rd of November）、8：50～16：20（24th of November ～ end of February）
The best access would be walk from Tōbu Tōjō Line and JR Kawagoe Station for 20 min.
4th. The Railway Museum | Omiya – Urawa area
The Omiya Railway Museum is not only for railway lovers, it has a nickname of “Teppaku”. It’s designed to attract many people and starts to become very popular. In 2007, they opened their main building; their renovation of 2nd building was completed in 2018. They exhibit railway history and its evidences as well as the latest technology and mechanism. Visitors can learn them using hands on displays, models and simulations. Children would be able to play with their display toys as well.
The popular and biggest exhibition would be “the train carriage station” on the 1st floor where people can see 36 real train carriages. There is D51 simulator which is nostalgic for some visitors. In their outside exhibition area, there is “Mini driving train” where visitors can experience driving trains. On their 2nd floor, there is “205 simulator” that allows visitors to experience driving E233 train carriage.
Moreover, their 1200m and HO scale Diorama display is outstanding; they picked their trains from 1400 choices. Their 5 themed exhibition rooms : carriage, science, job, history and future, offers chances to learn many interesting and hidden facts about railway. They have regular events about showing retired famous carriages’ control rooms such as 0 Series Shinkansen and JNR Class EF66.
They also offer special exhibitions. The entrance fee would be 1300 yen for an adult, 600 yen for a student over 6 and 300 yen for a child over 3. The opening hours are 10：00～18：00（last entrance 17:30).
The best access would be taking the New Shuttle Line service from JR Omiya station and get off at Railway Museum (oonari) station then walk about 1 min.
3rd. Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street | Kawagoe area
Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street is where old buildings of Kura-zukuri style are lined along side the street. Kura-zukuri style refers to buildings with the image of Edo, such as black-plaster-wall and thick gatefold cover door. There were a lot of fires in Edo period, so people used the Dozo-zukuri(house built like a kura) in order to make the buildings strong for fire. Many of the current Kura-zukuri style were built after the Kawagoe Great Fire in 1893, there still about 30 buildings remained.
Kawagoe is called “Koedo”, so if you would like to enjoy the atmosphere of Edo Period, Kawagoe is the best place to explore. The oldest Kura-zukuri style building is The Osawa House, which is designated as national important property. This is built by Omiya Hanemon who sold kimono fabrics. Currently, they sell folkcraft goods on the 1st floor, and exhibit paintings of Kura-zukuri buildings or houses of all over Japan on the 2nd floor. The admission fee for The Osama House is 200 yen for adults and 150 yen for students. Please take note that it is closed on Mondays. Another spot we recommend is Kawagoe Matsuri Museum which introduces the history and attractiveness of Kawagoe Festival held in every October. They exhibit the actual float used in the festival, so you will be amazed by its size and gorgeous sculpture and decoration.
The admission fee for the museum is 300 yen for general, 100 yen for elementary-junior high school students. It is closed on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month and new year’s holiday. There is another museum, Kura-zukuri Museum in Kawagoe. You can learn the style and scale of Kura-zukuri style of Kawagoe. The admission fee for this museum is 100 yen for general, 50 yen for high school-college students.
It is closed on Monday and new year’s holiday. *please take note that this museum is currently under construction for anti-earthquake and will be closed until 2019 Mar.
Next spot is Ichibangai. Ichibangai is located very closed to Toki no Kane, the symbol of Kawagoe and Kashiya Yokocho. There are many Japanese style craft shops, so you can buy souvenir while enjoying Edo atmosphere. There are sweets shops using sweet potato, Kawagoe’s speciality. Especially the sweets called “Imokoi” made by Kashomon is a popular one, it is a manju filled with coarse anko and sweet potato. Opening hour is different depending on the shops, and no admission fee needed to enter the street.
To get to Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street: get off at Kawagoe Station of JR/Tobu Tojo Line, take Tobu Bus with “Shinmei Cho direction”(via Kura no Machi), get off at Ichibangai stop, and walk for 1 minute. There is another route for the bus: take CO-EDO loop bus, get off at Kura no Machi, and walk for 1 minute or take KOEDO KAWAGOE loop bus, get off at Ichibangai stop, and walk for 1 minute. If you get off at Hon-Kawagoe Station of Seibu Shinjuku line, it takes 15 minutes by walk.
2nd. Totoro Forest | Tokorozawa – Iruma area
Sayama Highland is located between Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture; 11 km east to west east and west, 4 kilometers north and south, and a total area about 3,500 hectare. This highland is an isolated green area amongst cities; it keeps great natural sceneries. The famous film My Neighbor Totoro, acclaimed animated tale by director Hayao Miyazaki, which follows a schoolgirl Satsuke and her younger sister, Mei, as they settle into an old country house and make friendships with Totoro. National Trust bought some of the area of this highland, and named it Totoro Forest. They purchased their 1st land in 1991, then now it expanded to 48th purchased land. Near this Totoro forest, there are Tama Lake and Sayama Lake; they made cycling roads around them as well.
There are so many wild life including : sawtooth oaks, Japanese Cypress Trees, Japanese Cornaceaes, Quercus serrates, Neolitsea sericeas and many others. Visitors can also feel the insects and animals that live amongst them. The national trust office is located at Kurosuke’s House which is an old traditional Japanese house. They are open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10:00 to 15:00. Everyone is welcome with donation. They offer many events and guided tours: Frost exploring with an insects specialist and Kurosuke’s House guided tour. Another sightseeing spots include Bodaigi Pond, Hachikokuyama and an artificial Mt. Fuji Arahatafuji.
The best access would be travel from Tōbu Tōjō Line Kawagoe Station to Seibu Shinjuku Line Hon-Kawagoe Station, then transfer to Seibu Seibu-en Line via Higashi-Murayama Station, get off at Seibu-en and walk about 7 min.
1st. Menuma Shodenzan Kangi-in | Kumagaya – Gyoda area
Menuma Shodenzan was built in 1179 by the war hero of Genpei War Sanemori Saitō who was a ruler of this area. This is one of the best 3 Gaṇapati temples in Japan. It has another name “Saitama Nikō”. Sanemori Saitō built this temple to pay respect to his soldiers who died at battles, and wish for his town’s success. Their huge entrance gate (Kisoumon) is registered as Important Cultural Property. Visitors are able to see the statue of old samurai Sanemori Saitō. This statue is showing him dying his grey hair to back to hide his age which was over 70, he did this because he did not want to be less than younger solders.
The main building is registered as the national treasure of Japan; its detailed curving and vivid colour are outstanding. The god Gaṇapati is known its power for relationship that attracts many visitors. The temple is surrounded by nature which offer seasonal sceneries: cherry blossom for spring and autumn leaves colour change. In 2019, they would be cerebrate their 840 years history; in April, they would open up the door of the god statue which is normally shut to hide the statue. The entrance is free but if you want to get inside of the main building, visitors have to pay 700 yen each. Their opening time is 9:30～16:30（the last entrance is 16:00）
The best access would be from JR Kumagaya station take Asahi Bus Destinations: Ohta station, Menuma Shodenzan Front, Nishikoizumi station or Nishiyajima and get off at Menuma Shodenzan Front, then about 1 min walk.
2. Getting to Omiya station from Tokyo
①Tokyo to Omiya station by Train
From Tokyo Main station, people can take JR Ueno–Tokyo Line (Destanation: Omiya /Kagohara) to Omiya station.
The duration is about 30 min. The cost is about 550 yen. All the train tickets are available for purchase from any ticket vending machines at near gates but if a person would use the public transports often, then it’s better to get transport IC cards such as Suica or PASMO. They are rechargeable cards with deposits thus at end of its use, people would be able to get the refund of their balance on the card.
② Tokyo to Kawagoe station by Train
From Tokyo Main station, people can take JR or Subway services to Ikebukuro station, then transfer to Tōbu Tōjō Line and get off at Kawagoe station. Duration is about 1 hour. The cost is about 670 yen. Or people are able to take JR line to get Omiya via Kawagoe. Duration is about 1 hour. The cost is about 840 yen.
③ Tokyo to Chichibu station by Train
From Tokyo Main station, people can take JR Ueno–Tokyo Line (Destination: Takasaki) to Yumagaya, then transfer to Chichibu Railway (Destination: Kagemori ). Duration is about 2 hours and 30 min. The cost is about 2000 yen.
④Tokyo to Tokorozawa station by train ¥
From Tokyo Main station, people can take JR Yamatote Line (Inner–outer directions: Ueno/Ikebukuro) to Ikebukuro and transfer to Seibu Ikebukuro Line (Destination: Hanno ) and get off at Tokorozawa. Duration is about 50 min. The cost is about 540 yen.Or take JR Yamatote Line to Takadano Baba station, then transfer to Seibu Shinjuku Line and get off Tokorozawa. Duration is about over 1 hour. The cost is about 540yen.
⑤ Tokyo to Kumagaya Station by train
From Tokyo Main station, people can take JR Tōkaidō Main Line or JR Ueno–Tokyo Line (Destanation: Kagohara/Takasaki) to Kumagaya Station. Duration is about over 1 hour and 10 min. The cost is about 1140 yen.
①Tokyo to Omiya station by bus
From Tokyo Main station, take an express bus service to Omiya station (West Exit) .Duration is about over 1 hour and 30 min. The cost is about 5400 yen.
②Tokyo to Kawagoe station by bus
From Tokyo Main station, take an express bus service to Kawagoe station (East Exit) .Duration is about over 2 hours and 40 min. The cost is about 6000 yen.
3. Saitama area list
Tokorozawa – Iruma
Omiya – Urawa
Kumagaya – Gyoda
Chichibu – Nagatoro