Saitama City’s Traditional Arts

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What are the traditional industries of Saitama City?

Saitama City has designated Iwatsuki dolls, Omiya bonsai and Urawa eel cuisine as 3 traditional handicraft industries. These industries reflect the culture, regional characteristics and historical background of Saitama City and the surrounding areas and are infused with spirit and traditions passed down through the ages in Japan. These industries have a long history in our city and continue to contribute to the city’s vibrant economy, while still maintaining their traditional roots.

Iwatsuki Dolls

岩槻の人形

Details on the origin of the industry and reasons for its designation.

The name “Kozo Hinaya” is engraved on a stone lantern dedicated in 1830 at the Akiha Shrine located at 1 Nakacho, Iwatsuki Ward. Also, the shrine records of Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine contain an entry from 1834 recording the purchase of “a pair of hina dolls” in Iwatsuki at a price of “2 bu”. Even now, there are several business establishments in the city, mainly in Iwatsuki Ward, manufacturing dolls using traditional techniques that have been passed down since the Edo period. In March 2007, “Iwatsuki dolls” were designated as “Traditional Craft” by the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Iwatsuki dolls have become widely known to public through their prominence as decorations during the Girls Festival and various other events.

Omiya Bonsai

大宮の盆栽

Details on the origin of the industry and reasons for its designation.

Bonsai first became popular in the city of Edo. Bonsai artists mainly lived in present Taito-ku and Bunkyo-ku. “Omiya Bonsai Village” was founded in 1925 when a group of Bonsai artists moved from there from Tokyo, following the Great Kanto earthquake and fires. They came looking for a new place to live with more land, fresh air and water, suitable for growing Bonsai trees. Bonsai has become so popular that “bonsai” is now a common term known throughout the world. Even now there are Bonsai gardens in operation, mainly in Kita Ward, where Bonsai plants are grown and shaped with traditional techniques passed down from the Edo period. The region was officially named “Bonsai Village” after it became part of Omiya City (now Kita Ward). The name is now used frequently on guideboards in the area and is well-known to local residents.

Urawa Unagi(Eel)

Urawa Unagi(Eel)

Details on the origin of the industry and reasons for its designation.

The Aida Family Records, stored at the prefectural archive, mention an occasion in which eels were presented as a gift from the city of Urawa to the Kishu residency located in Akasaka, Edo. Also, the term “grilled eel merchant” is included in the Illustrated Map of Urawa (1844 - 1848), demonstrating that eels have been a popular Urawa specialty among both residents and visitors since the Edo period. Even now there remain long-established shops in Saitama City, mainly in Urawa Ward, still practicing traditional eel preparation techniques, such as “ripping”, “skewer beating”, “grilling”, and “saucing”.