Saitama (さいたま市, Saitama-shi, Japanese: [saꜜitama]) is the capital and the most populous city of Saitama Prefecture, Japan. Its area incorporates the former cities of Urawa, Ōmiya, Yono and Iwatsuki. It is a city designated by government ordinance. Being in the Greater Tokyo Area and lying 15 to 30 kilometres north of central Tokyo, many of its residents commute into Tokyo. As of 1 February 2016, the city had an estimated population of 1,226,656, and a population density of 5830 persons per km². Its total area is 217.43 square kilometres (83.95 sq mi).
The city was founded on May 1, 2001, and was designated on April 1, 2003 as a government ordinance. For the histories of Urawa, Ōmiya and Yono before the merger, see:
The name "Saitama" originally comes from the Sakitama District (埼玉郡) of what is now the city of Gyōda in the northern part of what is now known as Saitama Prefecture. "Sakitama" has an ancient history and is mentioned in the famous 8th century poetry anthology Man'yōshū
With the merger of Urawa, Ōmiya, and Yono it was decided that a new name, one fitting for this newly created prefectural capital, was needed. The prefectural name "Saitama" (埼玉県) was changed from kanji into hiragana, thus Saitama City (さいたま市) was born. It is the only prefectural capital in Japan whose name is always written in hiragana, and belongs to the list of hiragana cities.
However, Saitama written in hiragana (さいたま市) actually finished in second place in public polling to Saitama written in kanji (埼玉市). Despite this, government officials decided to name the new city Saitama in hiragana, not kanji. In third place in the poll was Ōmiya (大宮市). In fourth was Saitama (彩玉市), written with an alternative kanji for "sai" (彩) which means "colorful". The "sai" (埼) used in the prefectural name is a rare form of a common character (崎) that means 'cape' or 'promontory'.
The city is located 20 to 30 km north of central Tokyo, roughly at the center of the Kantō Plain. Situated in approximately the center of Saitama Prefecture, the city is topographically comprised by lowlands and plateaus, at mostly less than 20 m above sea level, with no mountain ranges or hills within the city boundaries. The western portion of the city lies on the lowland created by the Arakawa River along with those created by small rivers such as the Moto-Arakawa River, Shiba River, and Ayase River. The rest of the area mostly resides on the Ōmiya Plateau lying in the north-south direction. Dispersed in this region, major rivers flow southward, almost paralleling to one another.
- Saitama Prefecture Ageo (to the northwest) Hasuda (to the north) Shiraoka (to the north) Asaka (to the south) Kawaguchi (to the south) Toda (to the south) Warabi (to the south) Koshigaya (to the east) Kasukabe (to the northeast) Kawagoe (to the west) Shiki (to the west) Fujimi (to the west)
Saitama has ten wards (ku), which were assigned official colours as of April 2005:
Saitama's economy is principally constituted by commercial business.
Saitama is also home to various manufacturers, exporting automotive (Honda manufactures the Honda Legend at Sayama Plant), food, optical, precision and pharmaceutical products. Calsonic Kansei, a global automotive company is headquartered in the city. Iwatsuki is famous for manufacturing of hinamatsuri dolls and ornate kabuto (samurai helmets).
Representative station is Urawa Station. Saitama is a regional transportation hub for both passengers and freight train lines. Ōmiya Station, part of the Shinkansen high-speed train network, serves as the biggest railway hub in the prefecture.
The closest major airports are Haneda Airport and Narita International Airport, both about two hours away. Honda Airport in Okegawa is for general aviation and offers no scheduled transport services. Commuter helicopter flights to Narita Airport are offered from Kawajima.
- Tohoku Expressway
- Tokyo Gaikan Expressway
- Shuto Expressway
- National Route 16
- National Route 17
- National Route 122
- National Route 293
- National Route 463
Politics and government
The executive mayor, who is directly elected, is Sōichi Aikawa, an independent backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito. On May 24, 2009, Aikawa lost his bid for reelection against Hayato Shimizu, who was backed by the opposition DPJ. The city assembly of Saitama has 64 elected members.
- Mejiro University
- Nihon University Faculty of Law
- The Open University of Japan Omiya Study Center
- Saitama University
- Shibaura Institute of Technology
- University of Human Arts and Sciences
- Urawa University
- Nippon Institute of Technology
- Kokusai Gakuin Saitama Junior College
- Urawa University Junior College
Saitama was one of the host cities for the playoffs and the final of the official 2006 Basketball World Championship.
- Urawa Red Diamonds - J. League football (soccer)
- Omiya Ardija - J. League football (soccer)
- Saitama Broncos - bj league basketball (The base is Saitama Prefecture, main is Saitama, Tokorozawa.)
- Saitama Seibu Lions - NPB (baseball)
- NJPW Dojo - NJPW (professional wrestling)
Since 2013, the city has hosted the Saitama Criterium cycling race sponsored by the Tour de France, held at the end of October.
Most of Saitama Prefecture's mass media presence is concentrated in this city.
Saitama has seven sister cities.
- Toluca, State of Mexico, Mexico (1979)
- Zhengzhou, Henan, China (1981)
- Hamilton, New Zealand (1984)
- Richmond, Virginia, United States (1994)
- Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada (1996)
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States (1998)