Saitama city is located just north of Japan's political and economic capital, Tokyo. This populous city with over 1.2 million people is also the seat of the prefectural government. This inland area situated in the Kanto Plain is characterized by flat level land. Only 20km or so from the city centre of Tokyo, Saitama boasts great access to other parts of Japan and to the rest of the world. It has developed in recent years as an essential junction for key roads. It remains a strategically important transportation hub with Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen (Bullet Trains) passing through the city.
The Saitama New Urban Centre is a contemporary metropolis, which houses many government agency outposts and corporate offices. There are numerous high rises in the complex, and the multi-purpose Saitama Super Arena hosts a wide range of international sports competitions such as basketball and volleyball games as well as music concerts. Although Saitama continues to develop at a rapid pace, it also employs great efforts to preserve the past. The city has identified the time-honoured dolls of Iwatsuki, heritage bonsai trees of Omiya, and eels of Urawa as traditional industries.
The tourist destination the city is most well known for is the Hikawa-jinja, a shrine that enjoys a rich legacy and great stature. The expansive shrine welcomes multitudes of visitors each year, all year round. The Railway Museum inaugurated in 2007 exhibits truly extensive range of materials from all corners of the world. The museum is a must-see for train lovers; it is equipped with a simulation system, which lets you experience what it feels like to commandeer a train. If you wish to stretch your legs, you can enjoy the luscious mountains that line the western front of the prefecture.
Like in Shizuoka and Hiroshima, football has flourished in Saitama from long ago. Saitama Stadium 2002, which hosted a series of 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ matches, including a semi final, boasts one of the largest capacities among all football stadiums in Asia. Saitama is also the only city in Japan that is home to two teams of the Japan's top football league, J.1. There is a healthy rivalry between the two clubs and their fans, and the derby matches between Urawa Reds and Omiya Ardija are always cause for celebration.