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Tokyo’s 'uncool' neighbor launches foreigner-friendly travel support site with free online help

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

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.

Kawagoe City

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

Source: Saitama Tourism Support DeskNHK via OtakomuPR Times

Insert images: PR Times, Saitama Tourism Support Desk

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- 15 million flowers are in beautiful bloom right now at Saitama’s field of Heavenly Poppies

-- Which Japanese city is gaining interest among families and renters? Hint: it’s not in Tokyo

-- The Tokyo area welcomed more new foreign residents than Japanese ones last year

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Well. I lived in Saitama for about four years. I have experience. Real experience. I would rather visit Yamanashi or Nikko or Chiba where they treat international people well and are much more happy people. However, Saitama does have some great places to hike. That's about it.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Cool is in the eye of the beholder: Some of the best roads, paths etc for riding a motorbike and the home of Ichiro's Malt Whisky.

If they want to double their number of tourists, just ask Ichiro's to do their bit and start giving distillery tours. You get a pretty decent caliber of tourists with those who can afford Ichiro's.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Saitama city area is a good place to live and visit - it’s modernising quickly, much cheaper than Tokyo, and is becoming a major transportation hub. Tbh, living in certain parts of Tokyo can feel more isolated than somewhere like Omiya which has 11 lines and get to Tokyo station or Shinjuku in about 30 mins. Plus you can access places like Kariuzawa in 45 mins by Shinkansen. What’s not to like?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

And instead of highlighting the things Saitama has to offer, what you will see first thing is, "Close to Tokyo!" with an image of the Sky Tree. I mean, it can work, maybe, but imagine Kyoto or Nara or Kobe headlining themselves with "close to Osaka!". It doesn't exactly exude self confidence.

I lived in Kobe for 16 years. Great city and location. Many work in Osaka, about 30 minutes on an S-Rapid.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Husband lived and studied in Kawagoe many years. I lived in Suginami-ku and studied in Kawagoe, then lived in Kawagoe a few years. 25 years after leaving, oldest son returned to live and work there. Daughter has lived and studied there. All five of us visit annually. I especially enjoy strolling Kita-In temple and the 800 mink sculpture garden, as well as the historic downtown, click tower (and nearby Mrs. Hamburger), Festival Museum, Sweet Street, etc. for a decade we visited the wonderfully created John Lennon Museum in Saitama Shintoshin, however from the onset Yoko Ono had said it’d only exist for a decade. Still miss it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There is plenty there. They just need to advertise more. Get some YouTubers to do features on the place.

They could make more of Kawagoe. Maybe pedestrianise the road and tone down some of the modern stuff that is there. The constant traffic really jars and makes it difficult to take photos, with tourists squeezed to either side of the road. A small bus running from the station to the older area every 10 minutes would be good, or better signage. I only found it by accident, walking. Make sure your visit coincides with the Bell of Time being rung.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There are very few reasons to live in Saitama instead of Tokyo.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

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