Wooden shoe like to visit a Dutch amusement park in Japan?
Japan has had a fascination with Dutch culture since 1600, when the ship De Liefde arrived unexpectedly in Japan. Following attacks in hostile Spanish waters, the trade mission diverted its course and found itself at the port in what is now known as Usuki in eastern Kyushu. After arriving in Japan, the crew managed to earn the trust of the Tokugawa Shogunate, who granted the Dutch traders rare permission to trade with Japanese merchants. Several years later, the Japan division of the Dutch East India Company was established in Hirado and later Dejima, not far from present-day Sasebo. The Dutch traders and sailors maintained a strong relationship with the Shogunate, and even worked with them to crush rebellions. Owing to this strong relationship, the Dutch were one of the very, very few countries allowed to trade with Japan during their Isolationist period. Out of this 400-year-long legacy in Japan, Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch-themed amusement park, was born.
Opened in 1992, Huis Ten Bosch recreates a Middle Age-era Dutch town and sits on Hario Island in southern Sasebo on scenic Ōmura Bay. Equal parts resort, theme park, botanical gardens and living museum, Huis Ten Bosch brings royal European decadence to Japan. Huis Ten Bosch means “House in the Woods” and is modelled and named for one of the Dutch Royal Family’s residences in The Hague. In the spring, the grounds are filled with millions of tulips in a kaleidoscope of colours rivaling Holland’s famed Keukenhof Gardens, while recreations of famous Dutch buildings like Utrecht’s Dom Tower offer splendid panoramic views of the harbour and the gondolas cruising lazily through the canals.
Most visitors arrive by train, but a ferry also runs between Nagasaki Airport and Huis Ten Bosch. Visitors are greeted with gorgeous Dutch Baroque architecture, traditional windmills and expansive gardens as far as the eye can see. All year round, seasonal flowers bloom throughout the park—spring tulips, summer roses and autumn maples. Winter at Huis Ten Bosch glitters with lights during Kingdom of Lights, one of the largest illuminated festivals in the world, while the summer treats guests to music and fireworks festivals. More than a park, Huis Ten Bosch is also a resort that houses elegant and futuristic hotels built in European style and boasting everything from relaxing spas to cruises along the canals, robot concierge services and secluded cottages. Several museums dot the park, showcasing intricately painted Imari porcelain pieces, priceless glass artwork from around the world and even the history and future of video games. Resort, museums and gardens aside, Huis Ten Bosch is also a theme park with animatronic dinosaurs, pirate ships and forest adventures, haunted houses, a mirror maze, chocolate museum, shooting gallery and a Ferris wheel.
Officially the biggest theme park in Japaneven bigger than Tokyo Disneyland—Huis Ten Bosch attracts more than 3 million visitors every year, and is consistently named one of Japan’s top amusement parks. The park is home to 56 cafés and restaurants serving a myriad of cuisines and more than 50 shops offering many souvenirs, from traditional Japanese pastries to art supplies made in Holland, local wines, jewelry and even handmade baumkuchen, a tasty German-style roll cake popular in Japan.
Whether you’re in Japan and find yourself wanting to see a little bit of Europe, or want to experience the kind of wacky amusement park for which Japan is known, Huis Ten Bosch will satisfy your cravings. And they’ll serve it with a bit of Dutch chocolate, too.
Located just two hours from downtown Nagasaki by train, Huis Ten Bosch sits on the secluded Ōmura Bay at the southwestern end of the country.