The town of Gyoda in northern Saitama takes you far back into ancient eras and offers gorgeous parks. It is most famous for its ancient burial grounds from the fifth to the seventh centuries, in Sakitama Kofun Park, at the center of Gyoda.
Oshi Castle played a major part in the Muromachi period.
You can reach Gyoda by train.
Board at JR Ueno Station in Tokyo and get off at Gyoda Station (about 60 minutes). You can also board the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line at Ikebukuro Station for the same station (also about 60 minutes). Note that only local trains on this line stop at Gyoda Station.
Another great park to visit in Gyoda is the Ancient Lotus Park, which has 42 different types of lotuses. These unique flowers bloom in the morning and then shrink to buds in the afternoon. They can be as large as 20 centimeters in diameter.
The lotuses are in bloom from the end of June to the beginning of August.
Gyoda has a spectacular castle called Oshi Castle. It was built in the 15th century and played a major role in the history of the area during the Muromachi period. In recent years, the three-story castle, with its stone embankment and ornate roof, has been rebuilt. It now towers over the town.
Gyoda City Museum is a great place to learn about Japanese history. Artifacts and exhibits there include a suit of samurai armor that you can try on. Another historic site to see in Gyoda is the old tabi factories and warehouses. Gyoda is the largest producer of tabi, traditional Japanese footwear with a split toe.
At the Tabi and Lifestyle Museum, see a live tabi-making performance and have your own tabi made with the material of your choice (reservations required). You can even try your hand at the art.
In Sakitama Kofun Park, stop by Haniwa House and make your own original clay figurine.