About Sayama

Sayama, Japan

Worthington's Sister-City since 1999

    Sayama Mayor

    Physical and Demographic Description

    Sayama is a historic city, which can be seen from the many shards of Jomon pottery (the earliest pottery in Japan) that have been found along the Iruma River. The existing Nanamagari and Horigane Wells are two of the original ancient wells that were dug when the land was first cultivated.

    Sayama spans both sides of the Iruma River, and is situated between Kawagoe and Tokorozawa cities. Sayama was originally the Irumagawa village, which developed into the Iruma post town due to its proximity to Tokyo. As a result of the rafting of timber down the River to the Iruma post town to reach Tokyo, the commerce of the village was developed and became known as Sayama.


    On July 1, 1954, 1 town and 5 villages merged into Sayama, which raised its original population of 31,000 to its present population of 162,986. The city has a strong mayoral form of government with a city council and is represented by thirty members elected at-large. Sayama conducts its legislative meetings in the Sayama City Hall, which has seven branch offices to serve eight districts. The government is supported by a taxation plan that includes a municipal property tax, light automobile tax, tax certificate, fees for registration and scrapping of motorcycles, and the National Health Tax.
    The government provides an array of services: a mandatory recycling program (due to its limited land mass), neighborhood police stations (kobans), and senior citizens' day care centers (kashiwa-en). The city government is also responsible for the educational system, housing, social welfare, public health, the library, museum, and the zoo. The government also assists community-based organizations in the installation and management of the garbage collection sites, and the maintenance of street lights for crime prevention and safety. The crime rate in Sayama is low: 3,791 reported crimes in 1993, including, 1 murder, 3 armed robberies, and the remaining crimes - theft.
    The Sayama International Friendship Association (SIFA) operates under the auspices of the city and receives monetary support for advancing its motto: "We are all Global Citizens". SIFA is part of the Autonomy and Cultural Affairs Office of the City and is the site of the foreign residents' assistance desk for aiding foreigners with customs and daily living.

    Since 1991, Sayama has been involved in its Basic Medium-Range Plan aimed at building a better hometown through three policies: making a center of the townscape; establishing a network of greenery, water, and roads; and building a better city for the citizens' health, welfare, and continued learning. Mayor Ohno states, "the city's consistent policy has been to aim to be an educational city, because we realize the importance of education and we try to foster citizens rich in humanity and to back up the citizens' own culture.


    The public schools in Sayama are a function of the city government and do not have a separate taxing authority. The academic school years starts in April and ends in March, with extended vacations during March and August. They have elementary schools 1-6, middle 7-9, and high 10-12. There are six senior high schools, and four universities and colleges in Sayama. Most students attend high school during the day, and attend "cram schools" in the evenings. Cram schools prepare students for the test which determines if they will be accepted at a university, and which one they can attend.

    Business & Agriculture

    Sayama describes itself as changing from an agricultural to an industrial city. Sayama's famous green tea is celebrated in an annual November festival. The tea farmers organized a corporation in 1887 to standardize production and opened tea industry schools to improve their techniques. Tea bushes and fields are found throughout Sayama. Sayama also rates high in the production of tarros, burdock, and spinach.

    The city has an intermixture of agricultural, residential, and commercial areas. Tea and rice fields are adjacent to residences, while small retail, service, and manufacturing businesses are situated between residences on busy streets. Small specialty shops dominate the retail business, which a few discount and grocery stores carrying a variety of goods.

    Culture, Entertainment, & Spirituality

    Sayama has a citizens' hall, which holds two entertainment halls. The city supports the arts by sponsoring three or four events a year, including piano concerts and recitals, speeches and symposiums, and a Japanese tradition called "rakugo" - an evening of joking about daily life and politicians. The halls are also used for children's performances, such as ballet, singing, and piano recitals. There is an artist's organization which has an annual exhibit of sculptures, paintings, and pottery. The Hakubutsu Kan Museum holds demonstrations, ceremonies, as well as displays.
    There are no traditional theaters in Sayama, although there are several movie theaters, and seven local television channels. However, most Japanese families have little time for entertainment. When they are able to be together, they like to spend it out-of-doors at picnics or participating in sports. The blooming of the cherry trees in spring draws many families out to picnic and play in Inariyama and Chikozan Parks. The former park is on a site where the Japanese Air Force once trained, and was used by the occupation forces for officers quarters.

    Citizens' Resort Houses are available for leisure time from July through August, and are free of charge to Sayama citizens. Public halls are facilities one uses as a place for gathering, creating, and learning. They also are provided to make decentralized services and courses available to citizens.
    There are several annual festivals in Sayama: the Irumagawa Tanabata Festival in August, which dates back to the mid-Edo period; the Hachiman Shrine Deer Dance, which was first performed near 1713 and expresses awe towards the gods; and the Sasai Honen Ashi Dance, which is held to pray for a good harvest in April and October.

    Sayama has many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and one Protestant Church. Shinto shrines, once marked only by a tree or rock, are surrounded by trees and are peaceful, quiet refuges where Japanese families observe "matsuri". These are festivals marking important turning points in life, such as, births, marriages, deaths, as well as the four seasons.

    Family Life

    Family structure in Sayama is heavily influenced by Confucianism, where the roles of parents and children are prescribed. The decision of the bride to leave her successful career to serve at her husband's side, is in conformity with most expectations in Japan regarding women's roles. The mothers may work part-time, but their primary responsibility is for home-making. Women who obtain university degrees are expected to use them to oversee their children's education. But they also use their education by working primarily in teaching, government, and sales.
    Family life is governed by the school and work years, each of which starts in April, including those beginning new jobs or receiving promotions. The fathers work long hours at work which demands much of their time and energy, with the expectation that they work on days off and during vacation when needed. The children attend school all day and evening in order to prepare for high school and university, even though they do find time to chat with friends.