A Stone’s Throw Away from Tokyo! 10 Sightseeing Spots to Visit in Saitama
Have a bit of time and want to head out for a day trip from Tokyo? Saitama Prefecture is a great choice. Just a stone's throw away from Tokyo, Saitama is full of great sightseeing spots that you can visit, especially in Kawagoe! Here are 10 spots that you just can’t miss!
Dec 27 2017 (Apr 16 2019)
Kawagoe is just 30 minutes by train from Tokyo, making it a perfect choice for a day trip. Also known as little Edo (“Ko-Edo” in Japanese) (Edo is the old name for Tokyo), Kawagoe earned its nickname for having many buildings that still retain their look from the Edo era (1603 - 1868). You’ll feel like you’ve almost gone back in time!
It's a picturesque place filled with temples and other historical buildings, so be sure to bring your camera along! Below are some places in the city that are definitely worth checking out.
Kashiya Yokocho (Kawagoe-shi)
Kashiya Yokocho (Penny Candy Alley) is a charming alley where you'll find nostalgic sweets from days past. These colorful confections were staples during the childhoods of many Japanese people. Even if these weren't candies from your childhood, you'll be delighted by the colors and variety of sweets available. They make great souvenirs, too!
The candy shops are housed in traditional buildings, so it really makes you feel like you've stepped back in time. The nostalgic scent of Kashiya Yokocho was even chosen as one of the Top 100 Scent Sceneries by the Ministry of Environment in 2001!
Kawagoe Ichiban Gai Shopping Street (Kawagoe-shi)
Kawagoe Ichiban Gai Shopping Street (Kawagoe Ichiban-gai Shoten-gai) is where the city’s well-preserved Edo period buildings are located. It's a short street, but the two rows of kura-zukuri (clay-walled warehouse-style) buildings facing each other look almost like a movie set.
This is the perfect place for you to step back in time and experience the atmosphere of Edo. Today, the buildings house restaurants and shops. Take a leisurely stroll, buy some souvenirs, and eat some delicious food when you come here!
Time Bell Tower (Kawagoe-shi)
Time Bell Tower (Toki no Kane) is a major landmark in Kawagoe. The bell chimes 4 times a day to signal the time. The original tower burnt down in the Great Kawagoe Fire of 1893, but it has since been rebuilt. It's a great photo spot!
Taisho Roman Yume Street (Kawagoe-shi)
Though Kawagoe is known as little Edo, its Taisho Roman Yume Street (Taisho Roman Yume-dori) brings you back to the Taisho period (1912 - 1926). Like Ichiban Gai Shopping Street, it is lined by buildings seemingly from a bygone era, giving the area a very unique atmosphere.
This makes for many great photo opportunities! There are also many shops and restaurants located here.
2. Nagatoro Iwadatami Rocks (Chichibu)
Nagatoro Iwadatami Rocks (Nagatoro Keikoku) is a rock formation that will take your breath away. This rock formation along the Arakawa River (Ara-kawa) looks like layers of tatami (traditional Japanese mat) placed on top of each other. Enjoy the scenery here, and be healed by the surrounding nature.
3. Tobe Janson Akebono Children's Forest Park (Hanno-shi)
You'll think that you've stepped into a fantastical fairytale world when you arrive at Tobe Janson Akebono Children's Forest Park. Whimsical buildings sit amongst lush nature to give the park its unique atmosphere.
While it might be a children's park, even adults will find it to be a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Bring your camera, because there are some amazing shots to take here.
4. Mt. Hodo (Chichibu)
Take the ropeway up Mt. Hodo (Hodo-san), and take in the breathtaking scenery as you ascend. The scenery changes with the seasons, and taking the ropeway will allow you to take your time and enjoy the surroundings.PIXTA
Mt. Hodo Shrine (Hodo-san Jinja) is a beautiful shrine located at the foot of the mountain. This shrine is where Kamyamatoiwarehiko-no-Mikoto (Emperor Jimmu, 1st emperor of Japan), Ooyamazumi-no-Kami (deity of the mountain), and Homusubi-no-Kami (deity of fire) are enshrined.
Walk around the shrine’s compounds and enjoy the quiet surroundings!
For more information, check out the shrine’s official website: http://www.hodosan-jinja.or.jp/english/ (English)
There are many plum blossom trees on Mt. Hodo, making it a lovely sight when they blossom in spring!
5. The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum (Saitama-shi)
Bonsai is a Japanese art form that uses trees grown in containers, and this museum is devoted to this art. Come to the museum and learn about the elements essential to bonsai.
You can admire the beautiful bonsai on display and walk around the bonsai garden. It's a great way to experience Japanese culture!
There's a photo area and a shop, so feel free to take some pictures and buy some souvenirs to remember your trip.
6. Heirin-ji Temple (Niiza-shi)
Heirin-ji Temple is a zen temple with spectacular autumn views. The trees on the temple grounds turn red, enveloping the temple buildings to create a gorgeous scene that you'll want to preserve in a photograph.
The long path leading to the memorial of Matsudaira Nobutsuna (who ruled over Kawagoe in the early Edo period) is lined with stone lanterns and flanked by tall trees. The peaceful walk down the path can be a great opportunity for quiet relaxation.
7. Chichibu Pilgrimage Circuit (Chichibu-shi)
The Chichibu Pilgrimage Circuit (Chichibu Fudasho Meguri) is a pilgrimage to 34 different temples that are dedicated to the goddess, Kannon. This is one of several pilgrimage routes in Japan that are related to Kannon.
At each of the temples, you'll be able to collect a stamp to commemorate your trip. Pictured above is the 4th stop, Kokokusan Kinsho-ji Temple.
8. The Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel (Kasukabe-shi)
It's hard to imagine when you would find yourself inside a waterway, but this is one chance that you should not pass up! The Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel is meant to prevent flooding in the valley.
Visitors are able to visit the gigantic surge tank called the "Underground Temple". With its tall columns and openness, you might even think you're in an ancient Greek temple!
9. Mitsumine Shrine (Chichibu-shi)
Located at the summit of Mt. Mitsumine, Mitsumine Shrine (Mitsumine Jinja) features a rare style of Torii (gate) called “mitsu-torii” (triple torii) that are guarded by two stone wolves instead of the usual stone dogs. This is fitting, since Mitsumine Shrine is devoted to Japanese wolves, long thought to guard against misfortune.
The colorful and ornate decorations on the buildings are a pretty sight that can be seen in few other places. It may be off the beaten track, but it is well worth the visit.
10. The Railway Museum (Saitama-shi)
If locomotives are your thing, then this is the place for you. Here, you can learn about the history of trains in Japan. See the very first steam locomotive in Japan (manufactured in 1871), electric railcars, and the very first shinkansen (bullet train) to go into service in Japan.
Many of the exhibits are Important Cultural Properties of Japan, so you shouldn't miss the chance to check them out!
There's plenty to see just outside of Tokyo, so add a day or two to your itinerary and make time to head out to Saitama. You definitely won't regret it!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.