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Any journey will be more fun if you know about the distinctive features of the area you will be visiting before you go there. Below are some things you need to know about Japan’s metropolitan Kanto region. (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma.)

What the Kanto Region is Like

History

Kanto is the region that occupies the southeastern part of Honshu (the largest island in Japan). This region has been continually developing since 1603 when Tokugawa Ieyasu established his bakufu (shogunate). Development was centered on Tokyo which became Japan’s capital, Kamakura where a bakufu was founded in 1192, and Yokohama where an international trading port was opened in 1859. There is also a history of castle towns flourishing in various areas in the region, such as Mito (Ibaraki) and Kawagoe (Saitama).

Climate

There may be differences depending on the area, but since Kanto is located along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, it generally experiences a lot of rain during summer and dry weather in winter. Tochigi, Gunma and the northern parts of Saitama are prone to thunderstorms caused by rain showers, while the northern areas in Gunma go through days of heavy snow, and it is common for the inland areas to record intense heat during summer.

Temperament

Kanto is the region home to the capital city, which means that many people from diverse origins gather to those areas. As a result, the people in Kanto are said to be discreet, modest, and they don't like to interfere in other's business in order to get along.
By locality, people in Tokyo are said to have a good disposition, while people in Kanagawa love new things, people in Chiba are generous, people in Saitama are dependable, people in Ibaraki are argumentative and staunch, people in Tochigi are simple and sincere, and people in Gunma are short-tempered but kind.

Dialect

Most people in Kanto, especially in Tokyo, speak a language that is called “standard Japanese”, but there are some distinct characteristics on how they talk in each area. The accent is said to be particularly strong for people in Northern Kanto, such as Tochigi and Ibaraki. Some of the characteristics of their language are the rising intonation at the end of a sentence that is spoken in a flat tone without strong accent and intonation, and the “~be” and “~ppe” that are attached to the end of a sentence.

Transport Access Guide

Access to Each Prefecture

The Kanto region boasts extreme convenience as it is an area that is easily accessible from Narita and Tokyo (Haneda) – the two international airports that best represent Japan. For direct transfer from the airport, it is easy to get on a high-speed bus that have a lot of timetables and cover a wide area, or a train that serves every area. It would also be convenient to go to Tokyo Station, Ueno Station and other major stations by train and then transfer to any of the numerous lines of the Shinkansen (bullet train), such as Tohoku, Joetsu and Tokaido.

Means of Transport

If only for its being a metropolitan area that houses the capital, the Kanto region has a fully developed transport system, so moving to and from all prefectures is easy. In Tokyo and Kanagawa, the JR, subway and other train systems are overwhelmingly convenient. In the other areas, it would be best to use the JR, private railways and other trains, as well as local buses.

Representative Tourist Attractions

In Tokyo, aside from Tokyo Skytree and other famous tourist sites, there are also many shopping spots like Shibuya and Akihabara where you can get ahold of popular fashion items and state-of-the-art consumer electronics. Meanwhile, Kanagawa is known for the port city of Yokohama, the ancient capital Kamakura and other spots. As for the other areas, Chiba has the Boso Peninsula where you can enjoy bathing in the sea, Saitama has Kawagoe that has retained a strong air of being a castle town, Tochigi has Nikko that is home to spots such as the shrine dedicated to the spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Gunma has Kusatsu that is a famous onsen (hot spring) district, and Ibaraki is filled with natural scenery such as Fukuroda no Taki (Fukuroda Falls) that is known as one of the three most beautiful waterfalls in Japan.

※ Photo shows the coast and townscape of Kamogawa City



Kanetsuki Street (Kawagoe City)

Must-Try Specialty Dishes

You can enjoy everything from classic Japanese dishes such as sushi and unagi (eel), up to the latest gourmet trends from all over the world in Tokyo, while the gourmet area of Kanagawa is famous as a ramen battleground and is home to such spots as Yokohama Chinatown, and Chiba is where you can have your fill of fresh seafood dishes since it is located close to the sea. Further, Ibaraki is famous for the healthy natto (fermented soybeans) from Mito, Saitama has the Soka senbei that is a fragrant hard-baked rice cracker made in Soka, Tochigi offers the Utsunomiya gyoza (pot sticker) from Utsunomiya, and Gunma has the Himokawa Udon (a type of wide-cut udon noodles with width measuring 1.5 – 10 cm), indicating that every area in Kanto has a specialty dish.

※ Photo shows Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen



※ Photo shows Himokawa Udon

Recommended Souvenirs

In Tokyo and Kanagawa, which are the representative shopping areas in Japan, many of the visitors will probably shop for the latest cosmetic products and consumer electronics. Aside from those, though, some of the other recommended souvenirs from the region are processed goods that use specialty local ingredients, such as the peanuts and biwa (Japanese plum) from Chiba, and Tochigi’s famous brand of strawberry – Tochiotome. There are a lot of delicious confectionery and other dishes made in the Kanto region. Now if you are searching for traditional handicrafts that showcase the old-fashioned skills of craftsmen in the region, then you might want to consider the kiri-geta (wooden clogs made from Paulownia wood) from Ibaraki, the washi (Japanese paper) from Saitama’s Ogawamachi that boasts a 1,300-year history in washi making, and the Takasaki daruma (a kind of doll) for good luck from Takasaki in Gunma.

※ Photo shows Akihabara Electric Town



※ Photo shows Tochiotome strawberries

From metropolitan cities to nature-rich scenic sites, Kanto region is a place that is overflowing in charm. So, please try to visit the region at least once!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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