Saitama is the fifth most populous prefecture
, with 6.8 million residents. It is located to the north of Tokyo
, and its largest cities are:
- Saitama City, nee Urawa-Omiya (capital) 895,000
- Kawaguchi 449,000
- Tokorozawa 321,000
- Kawagoe 320,000
- Koshigaya 298,000
- Soka 219,000
- Ageo 208,000
- Kasukabe 201,000
- Sayama 162,000
Saitama and Tokyo are much like New Jersey and New York. Even though they're part of the same metropolitan area, and it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, there is still a distinct rivalry between the ultra-cool Tokyoites and their Saitama dickdickdickdick brethren. After all, until well after World War II, Saitama was the home of a sizable portion of Japan's redneck farmer population.
Once Japan's period of rapid economic growth was underway, Tokyo began growing as people migrated from rural areas to the city. Soon, the metropolis was spilling over the territory of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and into the neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba, spidering out along the lines of the National Railway network. Areas that had once been covered with rice paddies were now being covered in concrete and apartment buildings for office workers in Shinjuku and factory workers on Tokyo Bay.
Today, Saitama is where many nihonjin (and more than a few gaijin) sleep at night, but doesn't employ nearly as many people as it houses. The Japanese government is looking to change that, and is converting central Omiya into a "New Urban Center" (a la Senri in Osaka) that will assume part of Tokyo's governmental and commercial role, allowing people living there to go to work without spending several hours on JR every day. Part of this area is Saitama Stadium, which was opened in time for the 2002 World Cup and has a unique movable seating system that allows it to accommodate events of all sizes.
The city is divided into the wards of Chuo, Kita, Midori, Minami, Minuma, Nishi, Omiya, Sakura, and Urawa.
In all, Saitama is a rather quiet place that is becoming cooler by the day...