It’s safe to say that Saitama has an image problem. The prefecture directly to Tokyo’s north, Saitama seems to live perpetually in the shadow of Japan’s capital, with snickering observers noting the similarity in sound between “Saitama” and dasai, the Japanese word for “uncool” or “lame.”
Really, though, the better word to describe Saitama would be jimi, which describes something understated and easy to overlook. And overlooked Saitama is. Statistics show that in 2019 (the last full year prior to the pandemic hitting Japan), 47.2 percent of foreign travelers to Japan spent at least part of their time in Tokyo, but only 1.1 percent felt the need to stop by Saitama, even though it’s right next door, prefecturally speaking.
That’s a shame, because Saitama has some very interesting things to see. So Saitama’s tourism association has launched a new in-English website and support desk, providing free online and phone consultation, to help international travelers find, and experience, what the prefecture has to offer.
The Saitama Tourism Support Desk launched on June 1, with its physical location located within the Sonic City Building in Saitama City’s Omiya Ward, a five-minute walk from Omiya Station, the city’s main rail hub. The desk is open between 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays. Those with questions about traveling in Saitama can ask them using the online form here or by calling +81-48-788-5336, which are staffed during those hours on weekends as well, with language support in English, Chinese, and Japanese.
On the other hand, if you’re just starting your search for things to do in the prefecture, the Saitama Tourism Support Desk website, found here, is a great place to check first. It includes English-language information on cultural, outdoor, and culinary attractions, some of which are pictured below.
▼ Flowers of the Chichibu region
▼ Tantoku Garden in the town Kawagoe, which also offers matcha and Japanese confectionery-making lessons
▼ Chichibu Geogravity Park and Matsuri no Yu hot spring area
▼ Omiya Bonsai Village
▼ Tea-leaf harvesting experience in Sayama City’s Miyanoen
▼ The historic downtown area of Kawagoe (also pictured at the top of this article)
▼ The Omiya branch of Kawamuraya, possibly the coolest-looking cafe ever to get shaved ice at
The Saitama Tourism Support Desk lists suggested times spent for each, and also has model sightseeing courses that show how you can combine multiple spots in a smooth swoop. There’s also a special page diagramming how to access Saitama’s best sightseeing areas by train or car.
For each attraction, the website also lists its distance from Tokyo, and with the site’s slogan apparently being “Just North of Tokyo” too, it’s pretty clear that Saitama isn’t hoping to suddenly jump up to the number-one spot of where international travelers want to stay and play while in Japan.
Instead, the goal for now seems to be positioning Saitama as an extremely easily accessible yet still off-the-beaten path destination that offers people staying in Tokyo a palate cleanser from the hustle and bustle of the big city, even if they’re headed back to their hotel in the capital later that night, and hopefully it’ll lead to more than 1 in 100 visitors to Japan checking out Saitama.
Related: Saitama Tourism Support Desk website
Insert images: PR Times, Saitama Tourism Support Desk
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