Thursday, 26 March 2009

Discover Japan #3: Saitama (THE EAST Campaign in Association with Japan National Tourist Organization London Office)

Saitama Prefecture was formerly part of the old Musashi Province.
In the fifth year of the Keiun era (708), deposits of copper were reported to have been found in the Chichibu District of what is now Saitama Prefecture. The Saitama area was historically known as a fertile agricultural region which produced much of the food for the Kantō region. During the Edo period, many fudai daimyo ruled small domains within the Saitama area.

After World War II, as Tokyo expanded rapidly and modern transportation allowed longer commutes, the lack of available land in Tokyo led to the rapid development of Saitama Prefecture, whose population has nearly tripled since 1960. Most of the cities in the prefecture are closely connected to downtown Tokyo by metropolitan rail, and operate largely as residential and commercial suburbs of Tokyo.

Saitama Prefecture is bordered by Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Nagano, and Yamanashi. It is located central-west of the Kanto region, measuring 103 km from east to west and 52 km from north to south. At 3,797 sq km, it ranks as the ninth smallest prefecture.

The eastern border with Chiba Prefecture is defined by the Edo River. The northern and north-western border lines with Gunma Prefecture are marked by the Tone River and the Kanagawa River and the drainage divides of the Arakawa River and Kanagawa River. The southwestern border is defined by the drainage divides of the Arakawa River, Tama River, and Fuefuki River. The eastern section of the southern border line, however, does overlap with any geological feature.The altitude, highest on the western side, gradually lowers eastward from mountain ranges to hills to plateaus to lowlands. The eastern side, part of the Kantō Plain, can be further divided into 9 separate expanses of hills and10 plateaus.

From the 30th of March, NHK will begin airing the new TV drama “Tsubasa”. Residents of the main filming locations Kawagoe and Nagatoro are already ecstatic. Incidentally, Saitama Prefecture is not regarded as a major tourist destination. But surprisingly, Saitama Prefecture is home to some of the best tourist spots in the country. The popularity of Kawagoe’s ‘kura’ merchant style streetscape is 3rd after Kurashiki, and Omi-hachiman.
For river rafting, Nagatoro is 4th most popular after Hozu-gawa, Shimanto-gawa, and Tenryu-gawa. Saitama features twice in “Japan’s 20 Best Flower Sightseeing Spots” which includes shibazakura, or moss phlox, at Hitsujiyama Park in Chichibu, and cherry and rape blossoms at Gongendo-zutsumi in Satte. Shibazakura at Hitsujiyama Park receives the 9th most visitors of anywhere in Japan during Golden Week. There is talk of a movie being made from the novel “Nobou no shiro”, a story set in Gyoda about a battle between Mitsunari Ishida and the lord of Oshi Castle. In the area is also the Sakitama Burial Mounds, the reconstructed Oshi Castle, Tabi-gura streetscape and an ancient lotus pond. A movie could be a big break for Gyoda. A recent trend for sightseeing these days seems to be cheap, close, and short.

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