Saitama (Japanese: さいたま市; -shi) is the capital city of Saitama Prefecture in Japan. It was created by the merger of the cities of Urawa, Omiya, and Yono. Many of its residents commute into Tokyo.
As of 2003, the city has an estimated population of 1,053,035 and a population density of 6,255.78 persons per km². The total area is 168.33 km².
The city was founded on May 1, 2001 and was designated on April 1, 2003 by government ordinance.
The city has the following wards: Chuo, Kita, Midori, Minami, Minuma, Nishi, Omiya, Sakura, and Urawa.
Saitama is home to the Urawa Reds, the popular J-League football (soccer) team owned by Mitsubishi. And Saitama is also home to the Omiya Ardija, the football team owned by NTT. The new Saitama Stadium hosted many football games of the 2002 World Cup, including one of the semifinals.
Due to the World Cup, the Nanboku Line of the Tokyo Metro system was extended from Akabane-Iwabuchi all the way to Urawa-Misono: however, the name of the line changes from Nanboku to Saitama Railway when the train passes the official boundary of Tokyo and Saitama. The extension of the metro obviously gave a boost to the neigborhood, and parts of Saitama are increasingly popular to live in for people who can enjoy a 30 - 40 minute commute to central Tokyo.
Tokyo natives often refer to Saitama as "Dasaitama," a combination of dasai (uncool) and Saitama. The Tokyo disdain for Saitama comes from before World War II, when Saitama was a rural area and considered to be markedly less sophisticated than the capital.
Origin of the name "Saitama"
- With the merger of Urawa, Omiya, 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 written in hiragana.
- However, Saitama written in hiragana (さいたま市) finished in second in public polling to Saitama written in kanji (埼玉市). Despite this, government officials decided to name the new city Saitama: written in hiragana, not kanji. In third place in the poll was Omiya (大宮市). In fourth was Saitama (彩玉市), written with an alternative kanji for "sai" (彩) that 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 name "Saitama" originally comes from the Sakitama (埼玉郡) district of what is now the city of Gyoda 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'yoshu. The pronunciation has changed from Sakitama to Saitama over the years.
- Official website (http://www.city.saitama.jp/) in Japanese
- Saitama Railway Corporation (http://s-rail.co.jp/English/Top_e.html/) (English)
ja:さいたま市 de:Saitama (Stadt)