Urawa is the prefectural capital of Saitama. The prefecture is one of the fastest growing in Japan today, receiving the overflow of people from Tokyo in search of suburban life and the influx of young people from rural areas, unable to afford to live closer to the metropolis. As a post-town, Urawa is mentioned before the Nakasendo was officially founded in 1602, but throughout the Edo period it remained a medium-sized town. The railway secured Urawa’s prosperity at the turn of the century, but the subsequent construction of Tokyo’s outer loop line created a junction that became a natural focus for rapid post-war development.
Leaving Urawa, the modern highway veers away from the old Nakasendo. This means that the old highway, although close to Tokyo, is a quite road with enlarged villages on either side. Occasional farm houses (one still with its thatch roof, but rapidly disintegrating) are scattered among low-rise apartment buildings and detached homes whose construction draws on a multiplicity of architectural fantasies.
Warabi, the next post-town, is three and a half miles from Urawa. Unlike Urawa, it has preserved much of its past. There has been a considerable amount of building in recent years, but most of it is in the style of an old post-town, reflecting the pride which Warabi takes in its past. In fact, Warabi, though insignificant now, was larger than Urawa in the Edo period. In 1841 the population was 2223 people living in more than 400 households with 23 inns and two honjin. It never received a train station, however, and has declined in relative importance. Nonetheless, a feeling of pride in the town’s heritage prevails. The waki-honjin has been preserved as a museum and the buildings along the main street echo the style of Edo period post-town buildings. The exception is the modernistic post office which discards memories of the 1760s and 1860s for those of the 1960s.
Beyond the post-office, the Nakasendo rejoins the modern national highway and runs quickly to the Arakawa River, the boundary with Tokyo prefecture.