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Huis ten Bosch, the Dutch-style theme park in Japan

Ever wanted to find the Netherlands at the other side of the world? Check out Huis ten Bosch, the Dutch-style theme park in Nagasaki!

Netherlands-inspired Huis ten Bosch

Huis ten Bosch is a Netherlands-inspired village full of attractions. The park offers various real-size replicas of famous Dutch buildings, including the Utrecht Dom tower and, of course, Huis ten Bosch.

The total park is the size of a small village, and it attracts thousands of visitors every day. The original Huis ten Bosch is one of the three official residences of the Dutch Royal Family, and it is located in The Hague.

The history of Huis ten Bosch

Huis ten Bosch was created in 1988 by architect Takekuni Ikeda. Along with erecting the buildings, many saltwater canals and freshwater ponds were dug, and some 40.000 evergreen trees were planted, attracting all kinds of wildlife.

Huis ten Bosch opened in 1992 to attract tourists and show that there is quite some Dutch history in Japan, particularly in Nagasaki.

The link between Japan and the Netherlands dates back to 1609, when the two countries had unique trade relations. Today, some words used in Japanese, especially in modern medicine, are derived from Dutch, and the old trading island Deshima can still be visited.

How Dutch are the attractions?

Many of the offered attractions in theme park Huis ten Bosch, other than the buildings and layout of the park, have nothing to do with the Netherlands. Among others there are haunted houses, trick art museums, virtual reality attractions and a maze.

 

 

There is still some Dutch in there, however. You can take a tour on the canal cruiser, see a recreated Dutch countryside complete with tulips and a windmill, rent a bicycle and visit an attraction inspired by Dutch artist M.C. Escher. There are also various museums with Dutch artefacts.

You can order all kinds of Dutch and European food in Huis ten Bosch, although it might not be exactly recognisable as such. A famous sponge cake you can buy on site as a souvenir is castella, which is actually a Japanese delicacy derived from a Portuguese recipe.

The Huis ten Bosch theme park is divided into different sections, such as Amsterdam City, Flower Road, Tower City and Attraction Town.

Huis ten Bosch is also rather special if you decide to stay for the night. Hotel Amsterdam recreates a historical Dutch town experience, Hotel Europe is an enhanced reproduction of the sophisticated building with the same name in Utrecht, and Hotel Forestvilla brings you to the Dutch countryside.

The most special, perhaps, is the Hen-na Hotel. Striving for the ultimate efficiency, this hotel is the first in the world that is staffed by robots.

Recognition and estrangement

Someone who has lived in the Netherlands will experience a strange mix of recognition and estrangement, as Dutch buildings and streets are made to look as authentic as possible, but the mountains in the background constantly remind you that this is definitely not the flat country you know.

The toilets are quite clearly Japanese as well. It rather breaks the illusion of being in a Dutch building when you are presented with a modern contraption with a warmed seat and all kinds of buttons, rather than your trusted porcelain bowl with an iffy flushing system.

Buildings are familiar but in the wrong place, the streets are suspiciously clean and calm, many signs are in two languages and you will find few to no Dutch people around.

All in all, Huis ten Bosch is a rather romanticised yet intriguing interpretation of the Netherlands, and a visit is definitely an experience to remember!
 

Alexandra

Author

Alexandra van Kampen

English and Japanese theatre and culture are my forte. My mother was raised in England, and my grandmother in Japan. I studied Japanese Language and Culture, and Film and Photographic...

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