While Tokyo’s metropolitan sprawl swallows most of eastern Saitama, the prefecture’s western borders remain safe havens of rural tradition, preserved history, and a rocky mountainous landscape. Mount Fuji is visible across much of Saitama like a watchful guardian of the natural beauty that lies just beyond the grey commuter towns.
Since everything in Saitama is within a 100-kilometer distance of Japan’s capital, it’s one of the region’s most accessible destinations for day trips, offering a quick escape from the urban grind.
For a taste of traditional Japan, it’s a 30-minute train ride to the former castle town Kawagoe, also known as “Little Edo.” Picturesque alleyways lined with historic houses and quaint shops offer up sweet potatoes—a local specialty—in various surprising forms. Sweet potato ice cream, anyone?
The most famous road in Kawagoe is Kurazukuri Street. The area was once an important warehouse district for wealthy merchants. To protect their livelihoods from fires, they built unique clay-walled buildings to store their products. Many of these buildings still remain.Other popular spots are Kashiya Yokocho (candy alley) and Taisho-roman Street where you can find traditional Japanese sweets and beautiful Taisho-era architecture. Kawagoe also has an abundance of shrines and temples.
Saitama through the seasons
Head further into the mountains to Nagatoro, a small but scenic town that takes full vantage of its position along the raging Arakawa River by offering a variety of outdoor sports from traditional river boating to whitewater rafting to paragliding. There are camping spots, hot springs, and plenty of other activities for a proper outdoorsy weekend in summer, though there’s really no bad time to visit.
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