Jul 8, 2016

Well, it's not squalid! Locals have their say on living in Saitama

Well, it's not squalid! Locals have their say on living in Saitama photo

(Chichibu, Saitama)

Facts alert! Living in Saitama Prefecture means being part of the 5th largest population in Japan. Saitama Prefecture also ranks 5th in production/manufacturing revenue.  

Despite the Saitama’s proximity to the Tokyo sprawl, and a fighting spirit, the prefecture is sometimes derisively referred to by the Japanese as Dasaitiama / ダ埼玉, an unflattering combo of dasai / ダサい (lame, tacky … generally crap) and Saitama. True or not, you’ve got to appreciate the word play.

So, does living in Saitama not have any endearing features at all? 

Well, real estate information provider HOME’S PRESS looked into this further, posing the question to Saitama residents who have lived in the prefecture for over 5 years. 

Their first question was to ask ..

To what degree do 5-year + residents actually like living in Saitama?

Their findings are as follows … 

43.4% - love or are satisfied with life in Saitama. If those who responded along the line of ‘Well, if I have to say one way or the other, I’d say I like it.’, are included, then, in large part, it seems most people are at least fairly happy with living in Saitama - 81.0%.

Positive so far then. But hang on. Of those who had lived in the prefecture for over 30 years, only 14.2% said they loved living there. 27.6% of those living in Saitama between 7 - 10 years would like to move away if they have the chance.  

What are the good points about life in Saitama? Responses as follows … 

1Easy to get out of the city49.8%
2A good balance between the city and the countryside39.9%
3Strong resistance to disasters17.2%
5Lots of large shopping malls 15.9%
6There are no points of interest14.0%
7It’s not squalid11.2%
8Plenty of nature (Chichibu, Nagatoro, etc)9.9%
9Low cost of living8.9%
10Home to favourite sports teams7.6%

What are the bad points about life in Saitama? Responses as follows … 

1It has no character/standout features29.3%
2No ocean 23.4%
3Hot in summer22.7%
4Difficult to move around within the prefecture20.2%
5From the point of other prefectures it looks ダサい (lame, tacky)
6Not many places to go and have fun16.1%
7Not many famous sightseeing spots 15.7%
8Not many notable products/specialities14.7%
9The crowded Saikyō Line (train running between Ōmiya and the Shinagawa area, Tokyo14.5%
10There are no bad points12.6%

Urawa Station vs Ōmiya Station. Which is the most glamorous?

Honestly, this is the first time this writer has heard the term glamorous (Japanese - おしゃれ) in the same breath as both Urawa, and Ōmiya. If you’re new to Japan and wondering why the comparison between stations, that’s because urban Japan revolves around its train stations. So when they say ‘station’ it’s almost the equivalent of saying city center, or downtown. 

Hilariously, when the people at Home’s posed the question, ‘What station represents the most glamorous area in Saitama?’, the overwhelming response was that there was no such area! After that, comes Ōmiya and Urawa. Eternal rivals, according to Home’s. Not according to the people of Saitama though. Ōmiya came out with more than twice the votes in the ‘glamour’ stakes.  

Saitama’s Top 5 ‘glamour’ stations … 

1There aren’t any1008 votes
2Ōmiya196 votes
3Urawa89 votes
4Saitama Shintoshin72 votes
5Kawagoe43 votes

Well, it's not squalid! Locals have their say on living in Saitama photo

(Kawagoe, Saitama)

Recommended Saitama foods and restaurants … 

Kawagoe (川越) comes out strong in this respect; Kawagoe eel, Kawagoe potatoes, Kawagoe ganja (頑者 - a combo of tough/up for it, and ninja) ramen (no, nothing to do with the stuff you can smoke) .. it seems Kawagoe has plenty to boast about when it comes to food. Whilst eel is usually associated with Hamamatsu in Shizuoka, Saitama’s Urawa is also famous for the slippery dish. The Home’s piece doesn’t give a definitive ranking for this, but here are some of the foods that came out strong … 

Yamada udon (山田うどん) - Udon noodle chain restaurant

Sōka senbei (草加せんべい) - rice crackers from the city of Sōka

Jū man seki manjū (十万石まんじゅう) - a shop selling まんじゅう, a kind of sweet dumpling filled with red bean paste.

Jelly Fries (ゼリーフライ) - Not what you might think. Snacks made from bean curd and vegetables, mixed and fried. 

Well, it's not squalid! Locals have their say on living in Saitama photo

(Saitama Stadium)

What’s your image of Saitama?

The last question posed by Home’s. A kind of word/name/phrase association with Saitama. Those that came out on top … 

Overwhelmingly .. Urawa Reds, the football/soccer team. Also, the aforementioned ダサい / lame, tacky.

Despite this though, let’s remember that 80% of respondents had a favorable view of living in Saitama. The people at Home’s conclude that Saitama’s wide variety of conveniences come together to make living in Saitama an easy experience. It’s this might well be Saitama’s chief characteristic.

How about you? Do you live in Saitama, or have any experience of living in Saitama? We want to hear from you. Tell us about life in the prefecture, and your recommendations for others.

Twitter: City_Cost_Japan




Top: TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) Flickr License

Middle: arditpg Flickr License

Bottom: yoppy Flickr License 



A Q&A and blogging community about life in Japan (plus a load of life-in-Japan stats!). Get your questions answered, share your experience! | Inquiry -> KyodoNewsDigital International Media | Tokyo, Japan | +81 3 6252 6402

1 Comment

  • helloalissa

    on Jul 9

    I lived very close to Saitama (in Koga, Ibaraki) for a year and worked next door in Kazo City, Saitama. I found the area to be much more relaxed and affordable compared with Tokyo, yet still really convenient. If you want to live in inaka/suburbs without the crowds but go into the city sometimes, it's perfect. Super easy to get to Nikko in Tochigi, Tokyo, Narita Airport, Disneyland, Omiya, and Kawagoe without owning a car. Even getting to Kanagawa/Kamakura area wasn't that far because of Shonan Shinjuki Line and the "Rapid Rabbit" express trains. There are really interesting festivals and plenty of parks and nature, convenient shopping, a nice view of Fuji on clear days, the Bonsai and Train Museums, lots of shrines and temples, etc. Plus fresh food is normal because there are always farms nearby. Yes, a bit too cold during winter and hot/humid during summer for me, but nothing else to complain about. Maybe the occasional getting stuck behind a stinky pig truck on the ride to work.