Saitama Prefecture is located just north of Tokyo, and often referred to as “Greater Tokyo”. Because its southern part is adjacent to Tokyo, it is more densely populated than the northern part of the prefecture. The prefecture offers various tourist attractions and activities including Edo townscape, great nature with water activities on Arakawa River, and historical shrines. Here we have recommended places to visit in Saitama Prefecture.
Located deep in the mountains of western Saitama Prefecture, Nagatoro is a popular spot for day trippers from Tokyo looking for river boat cruises, wild water sports and hiking in largely unspoiled nature. River cruise on the Arakawa River is one of the most popular activities in Nagatoro. Arakawa River, which flows through Saitama Prefecture and Tokyo before reaching Tokyo Bay, offers beautiful natural scenery and the huge rock formation called Iwadatami. Particularly in November, many Japanese tourists enjoy the picturesque contrast between the bold Iwadatami and the vivid autumn leaves.
In addition to these activities, Nagatoro is also famous for fine local food. During summer, many Japanese people visit Nagatoro for shaved ice made with natural ice. In some shops, you may have to wait for a few hours in the queues until you get to eat one, but for many people, fluffy shaved ice made from naturally formed ice with syrup made with natural ingredients is worth the wait.
The most popular shop is called Asami Reizo, check out more information from here.
Take a limited express along the Seibu Ikebukuro Line from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo to Seibu-Chichibu Station, then take a short walk to Ohanabatake Station and take the Chichibu Railway to Nagatoro (about 2 hours).
2. Kawagoe-Hikawa Shrine
This shrine has a history of about 1,500 years and five deities are enshrined. With two sets of deities that are regarded as married couples, the shrine has been historically worshipped for marital happiness, happy relationships, and matchmaking.
Inside the shrine ground, you will find a unique ritual called “hitogata nagashi” at the small river that runs through the shrine ground. Take one of the “hitogata” (human-shaped Japanese washi paper) which are in a small box near the river, blow three times on it, rub it on yourself, and release the hitogata paper into the river while chanting “harai tamae, kiyome tamae” (atone and purify). This ritual is to cleanse one’s sins.
Since 2014, during summer (from early July until early September), the shrine has held the Enmusubi Wind Chime Festival. Enmusubi means marriage or marriage ties, and those people who are looking to meet a partner and/or to have a good marriage come for a blessing. During the festival, you can visit the shrine until 9pm to enjoy the small river on the shrine ground lit up.
From Kawagoe Station, take Tobu Bus and get off at Kawagoe-Hikawa Jinja (about 10 minutes).
3. Kawagoe Ichiban-gai, Toki no Kane
Kawagoe is the capital of Saitama Prefecture and is known as “little Edo” for its nostalgic atmosphere from the Edo period.
Ichibangai or Kurazukuri Street, which stretches a few hundred meters long, is lined with historical buildings which were once used as warehouses in the Edo period. Today most of these buildings are shops, cafes and restaurants. Walk around the district and enjoy nostalgic scenes. In Ichibangai, you will find the Toki no Kane (The Bell of Time) which is the symbol of Kawagoe. It was built originally between 1627 and 1634. The one you can see today was rebuilt in 1893 after the great fire. Its height is approximately 16 meters. Still now it tells time 4 times a day; 6 in the morning, noon, three in the afternoon, and 6 in the evening.
▶Read more about Kawagoe and things to do in Little Edo
From Kawagoe Station East Exit Bus Stop, take Tobu Bus line 01 “Ko-Edo Meisho Meguri Bus”, get off at Fudanotsuji (about 25 min). Or, take “CO-EDO Loop Bus” from Kawagoe station West bus terminal, get off at Kura no Machi bus stop (about 40 min).
4. Icicles of Misotsuchi
Are you interested in natural winter illuminations? Icicles of Misotsuchi in Chichibu City is a naturally-made wall of icicles measuring over 30 meters wide and 10 meters high. This natural ice artwork is created when spring water leaks through the surface of rocks. The best time to see them is usually from mid-January to mid-February when the icicles hit their peak coldness. These icicles are also lit up at night on the weekends and national holidays.
Take a limited express along the Seibu Ikebukuro Line from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo to Seibu-Chichibu Station, then take Seibu Kanko bus to Mitsumine Shrine.
5. Matsuri no yu
Located in front of Seibu-Chichibu Station, Matsuri no yu is a hot spring facility which is themed around Chichibu’s famous “matsuri” (festivals). It features a variety of areas including a bathing area with a wide variety of baths, a food court with Chichibu’s local cuisine, and a shopping area with souvenir shops.
From Ikebukuro Station, take Seibu Ikebukuro Chichibu Line Express bound for Hanno. From Hanno Station, take Seibu Ikebukuro Chichibu Line bound for Seibu Chichibu. Get off at Seibu Chichibu Station (about 1 hour and 40 minutes).
6. Chichibu Shrine
Located in the city center of Chichibu, Chichibu Shrine is said to be over 2,000 years old. Its current buildings were built in 1592 by the order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the leader of the nation at that time. The shrine’s main hall is well known for its elaborate carvings of creatures such as tigers, monkeys and dragons, many of which were designed by the same artist who designed the decorations at Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine.
The shrine is also famous for the Chichibu Night Festival that takes place in early December each year. Near the shrine you will find the Chichibu Festival Hall which is a museum dedicated to the Chichibu night festival and other local festivals. It features a theater room, an exhibition room with traditional clothes and instruments, and ornate festival floats.
A few steps from Chichibu Station on the Chichibu Railway or 10 to 15 minute walk from Seibu-Chichibu Station.
7. Chichibu Meisen Museum
Chichibu Meisen is a traditional silk fabric produced in Chichibu City, which was very popular for women as a casual style kimono in the early Showa Period, about 100 years ago. Chichibu Meisen is characterized by the brilliant patterns and colors, and the floral design is one of the iconic patterns of Chichibu Meisen.
The museum displays historical items which were once used for silk production. In the museum shop you can purchase various Chichibu Meisen goods. You can even have dying and weaving experiences at the museum with fees.
5 minute walk from Seibu-Chichibu Station, or 10 minute walk from Ohanabatake Station on the Chichibu Railway.
▶Read more about Chichibu and how to do a day trip from Tokyo
8. Johnson Town
Johnson Town is a unique American style village in Iruma City in Saitama. After the war until the 1970s, this area was used for the residential area for US military personnel and the houses were built according to the American standard to fit the lifestyle of the US army and their family. After the land had returned to Japan, it was not until 2004 when the renovation had been done and changed the area’s name into Johnson Town to start attracting people.
Some parts of the area are residential but you can enjoy small but stylish cafes and restaurants in addition to the shops in the style of American inspired houses at Johnson Town.
Nowadays it’s getting popular as a photogenic spot!
18 minute walk from Irumashi Station or take a taxi (3 minutes)
9. Totoro Forest
There’s a hiking trail and park that’s said to serve as an inspiration for My Neighbour Totoro, and that is Sayama Hills as known as Totoro Forest.
It is across Saitama and Tokyo, the natural scenery that looks like it comes out of the film can be enjoyed. There is also Kurosuke’s House, which is a traditional Japanese style house built over 100 years ago. You can also get the original Totoro souvenirs! There’s no admission fee but the donation will be appreciated to keep the house and protect the forest (Totoro no Furusato Foundation).
You may find Totoro sitting at the house and also his friends in the house. If you are a Tototoro lover, this place is a must-visit in Saitama.
*Kurosuke’s house only opens on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 10am-3pm
*It’s temporarily closed (as of September 2021)
9 minute walk from Seibuen Station
10. Moomin Valley Park and Metsa Village
Another unique attraction in Saitama prefecture is Moomin Valley Park in Hanno City. It’s an official theme park for the beloved character Moomin. Some live performances and exhibitions can be enjoyed as well as shopping at the gift shop, so it’s a perfect spot if you like Moomin characters! Adjacent area is called Metsa Village located by the lake and forest where you can enjoy shopping, restaurants and some outdoor activities. The concept of the park is to appreciate the free time like people in the Nordic region. It’s a great place to relax in nature and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. Even if you are not interested in the cartoon character, this area offers you a refreshing time away from the urban city.
From Hanno Station, take a bus to Metsa for 13 minutes
Where to stay in Saitama
Wadoh ―Riverside Ryokan (Japanese traditional inn), you can choose the room with a private open-air bath with a great view!
Comfort stay Miyabi ― Walking distance to Matsuri no yu and Chichibu shrine, easy access to the popular touristic places
Ryokan Matsumuraya ―The best location for walking around Kawagoe, located right next to Ichiban-gai, traditional ryokan which has over 100 years of history
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What did you think about Saitama Prefecture? With convenient public transportation from Tokyo, Saitama is a great weekend destination to enjoy activities in great nature and to visit historical spots.
Other things to do in Saitama
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