Saitama (さいたま) is the capital of Saitama prefecture in the Kanto region of Japan. Saitama is the tenth most populous city in Japan, having merged in recent decades with four historical cities. Saitama is a relatively short distance from the central districts of Tokyo, to which a large number of locals commute on a daily basis.
The closest major international airport is Narita.
A tiny number of JR Narita Express trains serve at Omiya Station -- as of this writing, the 17:16 and 18:48 NEX departures from NRT T1 terminate at Omiya, and Omiya has two originating NEX services at 6:21 and 9:09. When it is available the NEX is fairly fast, taking around 110 minutes. At other hours, you can make it to Ōmiya station by taking the Narita Express to Tokyo and changing to the Tohoku/Joetsu Shinkansen; either route is covered by the Japan Rail Pass or JR East Pass.
JR Kanto Bus runs limousine bus service, the O N Liner, every hour from Narita Airport to and from the Saitama Shintoshin and Ōmiya train stations. The trip takes about two hours and costs ¥2750 each way.
The cheapest way to travel from Narita Airport to Omiya is to take a Narita Sky Access commuter train to Shin-Kamagaya station and change to the Tobu Noda Line. This takes about the same amount of time as the bus but only costs ¥1580.
From Haneda Airport you can take the Keikyu line to Shinagawa station and change to the JR Keihin-Tohoku line for the run to the Saitama area (80-90 minutes to Omiya, ¥1020). Hourly limousine buses also run to Ōmiya station (90 minutes, ¥1500).
Saitama's Ōmiya Station (大宮駅) is a major train hub, connecting together the Tohoku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen lines, as well as the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line, JR Tohoku (Utsunomiya) Line, JR Takasaki Line, JR Saikyo Line, JR Kawagoe Line, JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line and Tobu Noda Line.
Why do shinkansen trains travel from Tokyo to Omiya in nearly the same time as local trains?
While bullet trains in the north are capable of speeds up to 275 km/h (165 mph), trains between Tokyo and Omiya are limited to 110 km/h (65 mph) due to residential noise restrictions.
- Just about all northbound shinkansen trains from Tokyo and Ueno stop at Ōmiya station, with the ride from Tokyo taking 25 minutes. A reserved seat costs ¥2800, and a non-reserved seat, ¥1580, making the ride quite uneconomical compared to a local train. However, if you have a Japan Rail Pass or JR East Rail Pass, your trip is covered. Departures every 5-15 minutes. (Note: If you do decide to make this peculiar journey, note that seating is all-reserved on the Hayate and Komachi bullet trains.)
- Regular trains on the Tohoku and Takasaki lines run from Ueno to Ōmiya in 25 minutes at a cost of ¥450. These trains make added stops at Saitama Shintoshin Station (さいたま新都心駅), near the Saitama Super Arena. Service every 10 minutes or less.
- The Keihin Tohoku Line is a local service connecting Ōmiya and Saitama Shintoshin to eastern Tokyo, including from Tokyo station (50 minutes, ¥540), Shinagawa (one hour, ¥620) and Kawasaki (75 minutes, ¥780). Service every 10 minutes or less.
- There is also service from western Tokyo to Ōmiya via the Saikyo Line and the Shonan-Shinjuku Line. Trains leave from Ikebukuro (25-35 minutes, ¥380), Shinjuku (30-40 minutes, ¥450) and Shibuya (30-40 minutes, ¥540). Service every 10 minutes or less.
- The Shonan-Shinjuku Line is also the best way of reaching Ōmiya from Yokohama (one hour, ¥890). Service runs every 10-20 minutes. Keihin-Tohoku Line local trains make the same run in 80-90 minutes, departing every 10 minutes or less.
- The Tobu Noda Line links Ōmiya station with Kasukabe (connection to the Tobu Isesaki Line), Kashiwa (connection to the JR Joban Line), Shin-Kamagaya (connection to the Narita Sky Access Line and Shin-Keisei Railway) and Funabashi (connection to the Keisei Line and JR Sobu Line).
- Hikawa Jinja (氷川神社), one of the most important Shinto shrines in the Kanto area, claiming the history of more than two thousand years. Take the train to JR Omiya station, exit to the east, and keep walking until you come to the tree-lined street. This is the two-kilometer long entrance path to the shrine. Turn left and walk straight north until you reach Hikawa Jinja itself. On New Year's Day, people young and old come to visit and celebrate the new year. Next to the shrine is a park, Omiya Koen.
- Railway Museum (鉄道博物館), 3-47 Onaricho (Saitama New Shuttle Tetsudo-hakubutsukan Stn, one stop from JR Omiya), . Open Wed-Mon 10 AM-6 PM. A must of rail buffs and great for kids, the museum features 36 engines on display (including Japan's first steam locomotive), train cab simulators, Japan's largest HO-gauge miniature railway and more. You can even eat your lunch in a restored dining car. ¥1000/500 adult/child.
- Saitama Super Arena (さいたまスーパーアリーナ), . A multi-configuration arena that can seat up to 37,000 people. Numerous shops, restaurants and attractions can be found within. A pedestrian walkway links the Saitama Shintoshin train station with the Super Arena. It's a very big hall. Many famous artists often give concerts there. The person who lives in Saitama does ceremony of Coming of Age Day there every year in January. There is a square around the Saitama Super Arena. It's a good place for a date. On Christmas, a lot of people come, because of the beautiful lights.
- Omiya koen (大宮公園), The park has a long history. It is the first prefectural park in Saitama. In 1989, a second park was added and in 2001, a third park. As a result, it became the very big park. There is a small zoo in the park. There is a swimming pool, amusement park, soccer field, museum and archery ground, too. It is park that is enjoyable for all ages. When it is spring, many people do cherry-blossom viewing there.
- Saitama art theater (さいたま芸術劇場),It is a prefectural theater in Saitama. It is used in various scenes. For example, it is used as the filming spot of the drama, the performance of the stage drama and the concert of the piano. You can enter there free. There is also a cafeteria and restaurant.
- Kawagoe Kashiya-yokochou In Kawagoe, there is a street lined by many shops of cheap sweets. These shops sell a lot of Japanese Dagashi. For example, candies, rice crackers, dango, Tai-yaki, rice cakes and so on. Many tourists and students on school trip or TV personalities visit there. The nearest station is on the Seibu-shinjuku line, Honkawagoe station. It takes about eighteen minutes to reach on foot. And sweets of Murasaki-imo(a kind of potato)Kawagoe's special product are popular.
Note that a museum at the Saitama Super Arena dedicated to John Lennon closed permanently at the end of September 2010.
- Tobu Dobutsu Kouen This place is popular for families or couples. There is a zoo, an amusement park and a pool. In the zoo, a lot of animals welcome guest. At the amusement park, there are many attractions, including the rejina roller coaster. Each summer, there are many beautiful firework displays. (However, it may be too expensive for some to enjoy, with tickets that cost around 4000 yen)
- Nagatoro You can sail down the river on a traditional Japanese wooden boat, taking in the beautiful nature of Nagatoro.
- Night festival of Chichibu This is one of the best festivals in Japan. It is held yearly on December 2nd & 3rd. This festival is famous for its beautiful fireworks.
- Shiba-zakura Shiba-zakura is a cherry blossom tree that blooms every year at Hitsujiyama-Koen in Chichibu. The best season for Cherry blossom viewing is from the middle of April to the beginning of May. I recommend that you walk to Hitsujiwama from the nearest station, Yokoze station, on a sunny day. It takes twenty or thirty minutes to get to Hitsujiyama-Koen on foot. You can enjoy the beautiful nature of Shiba-zakura as you walk.
The Three Little Lambs is a delicious lamb shabu-shabu restaurant which also serves lamb sashimi or lamb yakiniku. With drinks you can have a delicious, filling meal for under 3000 yen.
Jumangoku Manjuu is a famous brand of cake from Saitama. Manjyuu is Japanese style bun that stuffed with bean pasties. Some depertment stores and souvenir stores in Saitama sell it. For example, Sogo department in Omiya station always sell it. One manjyuu is 105 yen.
In Chichibu there are many greenhouses and farms of fruits. You can pick many fruits, grape, strawberry, plum and so on.
And you can eat them soon. Fresh fruits are very juicy and sweet.
There are plans that you can eat them as much as you like at a lot of farms.
I recommend you picking of blueberry. The season of blueberry is early summer, from the middle of June to the middle of July.
- Torikukai Yakitori bar and grill, 6-26--9 Tozuka Kawaguchi Saitama (About 6 min walk from Tozuka angyo station off the Nanboku line in Saitama), ☎ 048-294-5200, . During the week master Suzuki san grills up the freshest chicken and on weekends the best ramen using the freshest chicken for a wonderful broth. During the week at dinner its a Yakitori bar with a friendly lively local crowd. 5000 yen for a dinner for two depending on how much you drink and its all top quality cooking.
- The King George Tavern B1F, Tokai Bldg, Omiya, tel. +81 4 8649 5040. A few minutes walk through the seedier side of Saitama from Omiya Station's East Exit. Turn right at the exit and then left down the brightly lit strip full of touts and hostesses in evening dresses. The King George is a way down on your right. This English-style pub is often full of expat English teachers, and hosts a lot of gigs and live events. Drinks are around ¥600.
- The HUB East Exit (North), Omiya. Walk out of the station and take your first left. Walk for about a half a KM north until you will see the bar on your right. Every gaijin loves a Hub, and this one is arguably the best in the Kanto region, thanks to its massive interior and patio, as well as a non-smoking section that actually stays smoke-free. Food also available in addition to drinks.
- Chichibu wine Chichibu wine is famous for Gensaku-jirushi. Gensaku is a name of the first man who brewed it at beginning of Showa. The maker has strained to keep soil of grape field good condition since then. So, natural taste has never changed. Chichibu wine's taste is clear and aftertaste is very good. There are some kinds of Chichibu wine. Gensaku-jirusi wine (red, white and rose) 720ml is ￥1050.