Japan is a long and narrow chain of islands extending from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Given it extends over a great distance, the climate and attitudes of the people in each prefecture are different. If you compare the characteristics of each prefecture, especially the local food tastes and culture, you will find many differences. In the 16th volume of this series, we are going to be looking at Saitama, which borders Tokyo. You may be wondering why the title has "Dasaitama" in it, well, this article will explain all! To explain the title, in Japanese "Dasai" means "Uncool", and since "Saitama" fits the sound of this word quite well, some people call Saitama "Dasaitama" meaning "Uncool Saitama". It was started in the 1980s during a television program, eventually becoming known nationwide.
The Pride of Saitama Residents
Based on a national census from 2015, 1,060,000 of the 3,850,000 people searching for schools and jobs in Saitama go to Tokyo instead. Due to this reality, the uniqueness of being a prefectural citizen of Saitama is lessening constantly. Half of the day is spent working in Tokyo, and then most of the day is spent shopping and such in Tokyo during days off. There are also some people who have a strange sense of pride in that Tokyo's economics are being supported greatly by citizens of Saitama.
Moving Around Within the Prefecture is Hard, so Everyone goes to Tokyo!
Due to inter-prefectural travel being quite poor within Saitama, most people will only head south towards Tokyo, but never east or west due to there not being enough travel options. This causes other regions within the prefecture to feel quite disconnected and distant.
Proud to be the Stage of Multiple Anime Series!
Anime culture, something unique to Japan. There are a lot of anime series recently that depict scenes from actual locations across Japan. Saitama is one of the locations that is chosen quite often for these anime scenes. Some more well-known anime series that takes place within Saitama Prefecture include Crayon Shin-chan, Lucky Star, and My Neighbor Totoro. All of which are surely well known by Japanese and international fans alike!
Envy of the Ocean
People from Saitama seem to have an unusual passion for the ocean. Due to Saitama being one of 8 prefectures nationwide that is "land-locked", their passion for the rare ocean sight is unbelievable! Just as an example, "Saitama Aquatic Park" was created to represent an ocean within the prefecture, with white sand being imported all the way from Australia to give it a real white beach feel.
Sending of the Deceased Dressed as a Ghost
There is a strange custom within Saitama Prefecture that sees people dressing up in similar attire to ghosts when performing funerals. Small pilgrim's staffs are given out to all the attendees, and a triangular bandage is given to all of the males taking part in the ceremony. This is said to have the meaning of sending the deceased off to Sanzu River (Buddhist equivalent of the River Styx). It is said that this custom was born from the want to send off loved ones as far as possible before saying goodbye. We're sure you agree this Saitama custom is born of kindness.
There are many prefectural characteristics that seem bizarre and incredible to people from other prefectures. Please also check out the other articles in this series! If there is any prefecture you wish to understand better, please post your request in the comments on the right!