VIDEO | Virtual Vacation: Northern Saitama, Japan

Welcome to the series of virtual vacation videos where we can explore destinations from the comfort of our homes.

Join us for a short virtual trip to northern Saitama in Japan.

The advantage of this destination is that it is easily accessible from Tokyo and most military bases in the Kanto Plain within two hours by car or train. From Yokota it is only an hour’s drive.

Northern Saitama is home to rich history, natural beauty, unique rice paddy art, and a top-notch distillery, making the area a short and sweet getaway.

Some of the must-see sites in North Saitama include:

• Shodenzan Temple in Kumagaya City – Shodenzan Temple is a majestic temple designated as a national treasure. While the 52-foot-tall temple gate consists of three tall gray roofs and brown gables covered in tiny carvings, the temple’s main hall is covered in breathtakingly colorful carvings and resembles a large box of jewelry.

• Ancient Lotus Park in Gyoda City – Ancient Lotus Park in Gyoda City is home to a plethora of ancient lotus flowers that bloom beautifully in the heat of summer. Head to the 164-foot-tall observation tower to marvel at Guinness World Record-winning rice paddy art. For bonus viewing, mid-July is the best time to go to Gyoda, but footage remains viewable until late October.

• Nagatoro Valley in the Chichibu area – The unique landscape of Nagatoro Valley consists of a snow-fed mountain river flowing through a white rock terrace and reddish stone cliffs. Traditional wooden boats commandeered by boatmen in traditional dress transported us on the crystal clear waters of the river to ancient times or to an ukiyo-e painting. Nearby Chichibu Distillery has been known to produce high quality “Ichiro’s Malt” single malt whiskey since 2008. The fruity, well-balanced flavor of the whiskey comes from Chichibu’s significant temperature changes between summer and winter, locally produced barley and pure, clean mineral water. While you’re there, don’t forget to sample the local fish dishes. Among them, aji furai or fried horse mackerel is a must because it is locally sourced, fresh and tasty.

While you’re there, don’t forget to try tonmiso, a local specialty of Chichibu pork sautéed in miso. The tender dish is tasty and comes with a variety of fresh, local mountain vegetables.

I hope you enjoyed the look at northern Saitama through my travel photos and that it inspired your next trip. Stay safe and get ready to travel with us in our next video. Thank you for watching!

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