Why the Netherlands?
Huis Ten Bosch (ハウステンボス) is one of the only remaining signs of the Dutch influence in Japan—an influence that was ubiquitous from the 17th to 19th century, when the Netherlands was one of the world's major economic powers. Although Japan practiced a policy of isolation from the outside world during these years (1639 - 1854), with few foreigners allowed in to the country—and even then, only with an official edict from Edo—the Dutch were always nearby, occupying a trading post called Dejima (sometimes Deshima), a man-made isle just off the coast of Nagasaki. About 9,000 square meters (nearly 30,000 square feet), Dejima was home to an outpost of the Dutch East India Company and other merchants for about 250 years, during which time the relationship between the Netherlands and Japan grew—in spite of Japan's nationwide trepidation of all things foreign. The Dutch East India Company's fortune shifted irrevocably when Japan was forced to open its borders by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry. Although Dutch influence waned considerably in the subsequent years, Huis Ten Bosch is a town-sized commemoration of this extensive period of Japanese history.
What is Huis Ten Bosch?
Huis Ten Bosch is a fully recreated Dutch township from the middle ages, situated in the heart of Nagasaki Prefecture in Western Kyushu. This "Little Europe" is essentially a theme park inspired by different elements of Dutch culture, combined with more classic theme park tropes—an attraction town, a "horror zone" and a variety of themed areas, shops and restaurants. It's a one-of-a-kind in Japan, and a great opportunity to take a vacation in the Netherlands without having to leave Japanese shores!
The design and architecture of the town are reminiscent of the period of Dutch Renaissance—red brick buildings with stepped gable façades lining the town's walkways, which in turn run along the edges of an extensive canal system. Huis Ten Bosch's designers even went to the effort of growing multi-colored floral medians throughout the town, evoking images of the famous Keukenhof Gardens in Bollenstreek, on the outskirts of Amsterdam. While Huis Ten Bosch's design is inspired by the past, its functionality is more representative of the cutting edge technological prowess of which Japan is so fond. As such, the area contains high-tech amusements, attractions and a variety of state-of-the-art hotels. This marriage of the old Dutch influence with modern Japanese technology sets Huis Ten Bosch apart from every other destination in Japan.
Where to Stay?
Huis Ten Bosch has no shortage of luxurious accommodations. During your visit you can stay in the premium Hotel Europe—which exudes an aura of authentic grandeur, elegantly illuminated on the banks of a canal. Hotel Amsterdam is another fine option, and looks as though it was plucked right out of the Dutch middle ages, with an array of splendid artwork adorning the lobby walls. Fancy something that feels a little more quaint? Hotel Forest Villa is a collection of cottages on a lake, located deep in the forests of Huis Ten Bosch, which is a great option for families and larger groups. But perhaps the most interesting of all is the Henn-na Hotel, the world's first hotel to be fully staffed by robots. This "pro-environment" hotel opened in 2015, and is one of the most unique features of a town that seems to play completely by its own rules.
What to Do?
While Huis Ten Bosch is undeniably pretty to look at, there's a lot more to it that mere aesthetics. The town is chock-full of interesting attractions, activities and seasonal events that cater to visitors of all ages!
Arguably Huis Ten Bosch's biggest draw is the fact that it's a theme park, and one of the largest in Japan. The town is split up into sections including (but not limited to) the picturesque Harbor Town, the bone-chilling Thriller City, Amsterdam city—which is based around music and shopping—and Attraction Town, where the focus is on amusement and gastronomy.
Huis Ten Bosch's attractions are equally varied, ranging from roller coasters, dinosaur-themed treasure hunts, virtual reality experiences and a robot palace to gondola tours and a chocolate-themed mansion. The thrills don't stop there however, as there's also an action-packed water park (the largest in Japan) open from June through September.
For the amusement park, a 1-Day Passport is ¥7,000 (about US$63) for adults, ¥6,500 (about US$58) for seniors, ¥6,000 (US$54) for youths and ¥4,000 (US$36) for children. This is a pretty solid deal, since it covers admission and usage of up to 50 attractions. The water park is an extra ¥1,000 admission, though it's discounted to ¥200 if you are a Passport ticket holder.
Another one of Huis Ten Bosch's most popular attractions are its flowers. Japan and the Netherlands are two nations that truly appreciate horticulture, and in this regard Huis Ten Bosch's flower events are a match made in heaven! Along with the iconic, multicolored seasonal tulips displayed throughout the the town, there's the hydrangea festival in June and the lily festival in late June or early July, which showcase some of the most popular flowers from the two respective nations in all their blooming glory. Don't worry if you miss these events however, as the sunflower exhibition follows from mid-July through early August. The sunflower field is located right beside a couple of iconic wooden windmills, practically recreating a picture-perfect postcard from rural Netherlands.
Summer is the main event season in Huis Ten Bosch, and many events run continously through the months of July, August and beyond. These include fireworks festivals and contests, one of which is Kyushu's largest—with 18,000 individual fireworks launched into the sky in a breath-taking visual display—and the annual beer festival, which offers beer and ale from all over central and western Europe, along with a smorgasbord of rich European meats to accompany the ice-cold brew. There's also the Space Invaders Gigamax—where you can play Taito's classic arcade space shooter with 19 other competitors on a giant wall screen. Plus Pokémon-themed events, including an annual memorial that celebrates the Pokémon movie, Pokémon the Movie: Everyone's Story.
These are just a few of the many weird and wonderful events that are held in Japan's most unusual theme park. Visit the site below and start planning the perfect trip today!