Best Places to Visit in Saitama

things to do in Saitama Kanto

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 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. 

1. Nagatoro

Located deep in the mountains of western Saitama Prefecture, Nagatoro is a popular spot for day trippers from Tokyo looking for river boat cruise, 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 for 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 are worth the wait. 
The most popular shop is called Asami Reizo, check out more information from here.

Access

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 an 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 holds 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. 

Access

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 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 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. 

Access

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 naturally-made wall of icicles measures 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. 

Access

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. 

Access

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 dragon, 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. 

Access

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. 

Saitama Trip Silk Meisen Museum Kimono
Photo by Alex

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.

Access

5 minute walk from Seibu-Chichibu Station, or 10 minute walk from Ohanabatake Station on the Chichibu Railway.  

How 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. 

Where to stay in Saitama

Wadoh ―Riverside Ryokan (Japanese traditional inn), you can choose the room with 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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