Heading to Kumagaya Stadium during your time at the Rugby World Cup this year? Saitama City is just a stone’s throw away, and it’s a great destination for sports fanatics looking to explore a local, welcoming city—one that loves sports as much as they do.
Saitama City is just a 40-minute train ride from Kumagaya Stadium—host to three Rugby World Cup matches, including Russia vs. Samoa (Sept 24), Georgia vs. Uruguay (Sept 29) and Argentina vs the USA (Oct 9).
Traveling from Tokyo, instead? Saitama City is just 25 minutes by train.
To get your culture fix, head to the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. Here, you’ll learn all about the traditional Japanese art of using cultivation techniques to craft shrubs into beautiful, miniature trees. Hot tip: Most museums in Tokyo and Saitama are closed on Mondays, so this is a fantastic option if you’re looking to deepen your understanding of Japan but you don’t have a lot of days free. Plus, every Monday the museum offers a free English-speaking guide.
If you’re a devoted green-thumb looking to further your knowledge on this traditional art-form, make sure to take the bonsai class. You can even hire a free yukata (traditional Japanese robe) to gain deeper cultural immersion as you peruse the museum. Just ask reception as you arrive. Your Instagram will thank you for all the cool selfies!
Saitama City also has loads of must-see destinations for sports lovers. Check out the locations for the 2020 Olympic Games: Saitama Super Arena will hold all Olympic basketball matches for Tokyo 2020, while Saitama Stadium 2002 will hold all Olympic soccer matches.
This city loves soccer. It’s one of the only cities in Japan with two J.League teams: the Urawa Red Diamonds and the Omiya Ardijya.
As you check your sightseeing list off between rugby matches, don’t miss the Tour de France Saitama Criterium on Oct 27. It’s a great opportunity to see the cycling superstars of the famous French bike race competing and to feel the real tour atmosphere at Saitama Shintoshin.
Those in town for the Olympics next summer should take note of the Saitama International Marathon. It runs on Dec 8, 2019 and approximately 16,000 runners participate. It is the same course for the Marathon Grand Championship Final Challenge—the final selection race for female 2020 Olympians.
Speaking of next summer, by the time the competition starts, the brand new Iwatsuki Ningyo Museum will have opened its doors to anyone interested in experiencing a unique and little-known feature of Japanese cultural history.
Just 12 minutes from Omiya by train, in the countryside of Iwatsuki, this innovative facility will be filled with remarkable handmade human figures known as "ningyo" that have been locally produced in the area for generations, leading Iwatsuki to be dubbed "ningyo town." Considered an important art form, the evolution of ningyo and their social significance will be on display through exhibitions and educational activities. To access the museum, visitors will just need to take a 10-minute walk from nearby Iwatsuki Station. The museum will be open from Tues - Sun, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (closed Monday except when Monday is a national holiday). The museum will open on Feb 22, 2020.