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(Top 3) Chinatown’s In Japan February 21, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kansai, Kanto, Kyushu, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “(Top 3) Chinatown’s In Japan” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-LA

There are 3 major Chinatown districts in Japan.  They are located in Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki.  I have had the pleasure to visit each one and all of them are different.  To me Chinatown is a tourist destination that isn’t really an actual Chinese area.  When people say you must go to Chinatown, I feel like I am about to head to a tourist trap with various vendors hawking their wares.  Japan, unfortunately, continues this stereotypical trend.  Being of Chinese descent and having visited China I feel that Chinatown is not a great representation of Chinese people or China in general.  While the surrounding areas may be more representative, I feel as if I entered an amusement park where stereotypical Chinese culture is on display.

The biggest Chinatown in Japan is in Yokohama.  Located at the end of the Minato-mirai Line, which happens to be connected to the Tokyu Toyoko Line, is the Chinatown where most people will visit when they come to Japan.  It also happens to be the most crowded and touristy of the three Chinatowns.  I found that the area is almost completely filled with Japanese people and various restaurants selling different types of buns.  I never had a great time visiting Chinatown in Yokohama and rarely recommend it to tourists.  Japanese people tend to love it there and think that the food is all authentic Chinese food.  Unfortunately most of it is Japanese variations of traditional Chinese dishes.  It can be hard to get excited when the Chinese chefs adapt their dishes to Japanese tastes, but that is how they make their money.  I may also be slightly biased due to the fact that I found a small worm/maggot in a buffet lunch and all they did was use the tongs to throw it in the garbage.  Not the most hygienic method of fixing the problem if you ask me.  If you enjoy large crowds and Japanese style Chinese food, Yokohama’s Chinatown is a nice place to visit.

As you can tell, bigger does not equal better.  Kobe has the second largest Chinatown in Japan.  It is actually called Nankinmachi (after Nanjing) rather than Chukagai (Chinese Street).  It is one of the best Chinatowns in Japan, in my opinion.  It is lined with various food stalls and a few touristy souvenir shops as well as the stereotypical Chinese style architecture of Asian styled red roofs.  Once you get past the touristy look of this Chinatown, you can get a lot of good food and a large variety of it too.  Kobe’s Chinatown is also less crowded than Yokohama which makes it a lot easier to move around.  Sometimes trying to get around in Yokohama can be a challenge as there are people spread across the entire street making it nearly impossible to move faster than a snail.  In Kobe, this is not a problem at all.  The only problem with the Kobe Chinatown is the fact that it is very touristy.  It is hard to escape the fact that they do cater to tourists but thankfully I also saw many Chinese tourists when I visited so it couldn’t be that bad.  I’m sure they are curious as to how Japan views Chinese culture just as Japanese people are curious to try sushi in other countries.

The last Chinatown, and smallest is Nagasaki.  It spans just a few blocks and it is lined with various large and small shops.  Like the other Chinatown’s, it is dominated with restaurants but the unique feature of this Chinatown is the number of other types of shops such as fireworks and medicine shops.  You can easily notice a huge difference in atmosphere in Nagasaki.  I felt relatively safe in Yokohama and Kobe however in Nagasaki I felt it was a little dangerous, comparatively.  It could also be the fact that I walked in the area around midnight.  In Nagasaki, it is common to see Chinese people as in Kobe but you can also eat the famous Nagasaki Champon, Sara Udon, and Kakuni Manju.  These are all delicious, yet Japanese variations of originally Chinese dishes.  I do enjoy them the most as they are fairly close to Chinese tastes.  Due to the size of Nagasaki’s Chinatown, it is difficult to elaborate a lot on the different things in Chinatown as there really isn’t a lot.

Chinatown in Japan is something that a resident should see once in their stay in Japan.  However for the average tourist, I doubt a trip to Chinatown would be very high on their list of things to see or do.  I find it to be overly touristy and focused on Japanese people.  As with many other Chinatown’s in various other countries, I rarely visit them.  I prefer to go to the real thing.  I have already visited Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Beijing.  I doubt I could find anything that is specifically Chinese in any Chinatown in the world, even in my hometown Vancouver.  The food is good, for the most part, but dealing with the crowds and tourist activities is not as enjoyable for me.  I would much rather go to a normal Chinese restaurant in another area than head to Chinatown.  In fact, for people looking for a more authentic Chinese food, Ikebukuro is reputed as a secret Chinatown.  Many Chinese people take up residence near Ikebukuro leading to many Chinese restaurants being located there.  It is also somewhat contentious as the Chinatown merchants in Yokohama have complained openly about the idea of starting a Chinese Business Association in Ikebukuro as they feel it will create a rival Chinatown to their destination.  I doubt things will really change in the near future but who knows about the long term.

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Regions of Japan – Kansai to Okinawa June 14, 2011

Posted by Dru in Chugoku, Japan, Kansai, Kyushu, Okinawa, Shikoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Regions of Japan – Kansai to Okinawa” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-F0

Kansai is probably the second most popular area to visit by foreigner.  It is home to Japan’s second largest city Osaka, after discounting Yokohama.  It is also home to the most historically important cities in Japan, Kyoto and Nara.  Kobe is another major city but like Yokohama it can be considered as a suburban city of Osaka.  Kansai is also home of Wakayama which is famous for their Buddhist temples and the ability of foreign guests to spend a night and wake up to the prayers within the temples and Himeji, home to Japan’s most famous castle.  There is so much to talk about in Kansai that it is impossible to summarize it in one paragraph.  The people are very distinct and they have their own dialect.  It is often considered the comedy capital of Japan due to the number of comedians who call Kansai their place of origin.  The people are very outgoing and it is often easy to strike a conversation with a stranger compared to the cold and private Kanto region.  It is often a bit colder than Kanto but the warmth of the people more than make up for it.  There is a bit of a rivalry between people from Kansai and Kanto but I do believe it is more in jest rather than prejudice.  As for the food, Kansai is considered the capital for Japanese “soul food”.  They have things such as okonomiyaki and takoyaki.  They are experts in yaki soba and tonpei yaki.  It is mostly fried food but it is delicious.  Kyoto is a small exception as they specialize mostly in traditional Japanese foods that cost an arm and a leg at times.  Either way Kansai is a food lover’s paradise, unless you are trying to eat healthily.

The western end of Honshu is Chugoku.  It can easily be misinterpreted as China as Chugoku is also the same word for China.  This region is best known as the home of Hiroshima and Okayama however the Sea of Japan side includes Tottori and Shimane which are wonderfully beautiful rural areas in Japan.  The Yamaguchi prefecture is also a beautiful place but I have yet to visit that region.  The Sea of Japan side of Chugoku is best characterized as a rural area that appears to be disconnected to Japan itself.  The people seem to not worry about anything and tend to live life as an independent region to the other regions.  They are a proud area that is popular for domestic travel.  The southern region, in contrast, has been stigmatised by the tragic bombing of Hiroshima.  Most people will overlook Okayama and just visit Hiroshima.  It is a very important historical location and it is a place I highly recommend people to visit if they get the chance.  Unfortunately it can be a terribly humbling place due to the amount of artefacts that remind us of the terrible outcome of the atomic bomb.  You can’t travel within Hiroshima city without seeing reminders left right and centre about the bombing itself.  The people in the city are great and they try to live their lives as normally as possible.  The food is delicious.  They are famous for their oysters as well as okonomiyaki.  Of course Kansai is famous for okonomiyaki but the Hiroshima style is different and in my opinion, better.

Shikoku is a small island that is located just below Honshu.  It is an area that only a few Japanese people visit if they don’t have family in the area.  It also happens to be one of my favourite areas to visit.  It is a diverse region that is made up of 4 prefectures.  Each area is also unique.  The eastern side of Tokushima and the southern prefecture of Kochi often fight over who is better.  There is a very old and popular festival in both prefectures that are visited by thousands of Japanese people each year.  Both festivals claim to be the best and most exciting festivals in Shikoku and to be honest they are both wonderful to see.  While I haven’t been to either in person, it is difficult to travel the region and not see video of the traditional dancing during the festivals.        Ehime is the western prefecture that is well known for its onsen, Dogo onsen.  It is considered the oldest onsen in Japan and has various healing factors.  A little north of Matsuyama is Imabari which is famous for its towels.  In the north, you can also visit Kagawa.  It is famous for its udon noodles and also for Naoshima which is a famous art island.  It is a small island that is filled with various modern art sculptures.  Most of it is free however the main museums are not.  Overall, Shikoku is a very diverse region that rivals most regions of Japan.

Kyushu is the final region.  It is the western most main island of Japan.  It is famous for its food and onsen as well as its nature.  Most people will travel only as far as Fukuoka and northern Kyushu.  This is the area that has the best onsen as well as the best food.  Fukuoka is well known for its regional delicacies as well as being close to Nagasaki.  Nagasaki is not as popular but important for foreign tourists.  The southern region is not as well known but they are famous for shochu and various poultry and pork products.  One of the more interesting, yet overlooked, areas is Yakushima.  It is a small island just south of Kyushu’s main island and setting for Hiyao Miyazaki’s Princess Monomoke.  It is one of the few natural environments unique to Japan.  South of Kyushu is the Ryukyu Island chain which encompasses Okinawa.  Most people will lump Okinawa and the Ryukyu into Kyushu but that shouldn’t be the case.  Okinawa is, in its own right, a separate area.  They have a different history compared to Japan and have been fighting for their own rights as a small “nation within a nation”.  The entire chain of islands is beautiful, from the pictures I have seen, and make a nice vacation spot with lots of opportunities to relax on the beaches.  The culture is very unique with a unique style of music, dress, and language.  The food has been heavily influenced by the regional natural fruits and vegetables as well as the heavy presence of the US military.  One of the most famous items has to be Taco Rice which is basically taco filling on a bed of rice.  They also make use of bitter melon which is unique in Japan as other regions cannot grow bitter melon easily.

There is one region that almost never gets named when talking about regions of Japan.  These are the Izu and Ogasawara Islands (Bonin Islands).  These are a set of small islands that stretch south of Tokyo for over 1000kms.  The Izu Islands are a set of islands that are somewhat populated.  They have a lot of tourism however don’t expect access to be easy.  Farther away are the Ogasawara Islands in which only two islands are inhabited.  The Ogasawara Islands are historically more important that the Izu Islands.  Iwoto, or previously known as Iwo Jima is part of this group of islands where the US fought hard to get a foothold in taking down the old Imperial Japanese Army.  It has been a long time and few people visit these sets of islands.  In fact it is very difficult to get to any island other than Chichijima and Hahajima.  Most people in Japan never even consider visiting these islands so they have evolved into a very self sufficient area.  It is hard to believe that they are Japanese yet they are very much Japanese.

As you can see, Japan is a very long and diverse country.  Each region ranges from cool temperate to sub-tropical.  Japan is bound by 4 seas and 1 ocean.  There are 4 main islands and hundreds of other small islands that span over 1000 kilometres from one end of Japan to the other.  There are several mountain ranges and many diverse rivers.  Each region has their own distinct version of Japanese culture along with their own distinct foods.  People imagine Japan as being a homogeneous culture but they either forget or neglect that there are two indigenous groups, the Ainu in Hokkaido and the Okinawans in Okinawa.  You can also see the various culture differences between each region of Japan that is accentuated by the differences between people in the Kanto region and the Kansai region.  It is a wonderful country with many things to see.  Visiting only a few areas is not enough and visiting at one time of the year is not enough.  It can take a lifetime to fully explore every corner of Japan and even then you’d still have trouble experiencing everything.

Regions of Japan Information:

Wikipedia:
Japan:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regions_of_Japan
Kansai:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kansai_region
Chugoku:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C5%ABgoku_region
Shikoku:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikoku
Kyushu:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ky%C5%ABsh%C5%AB
Ryukyu Islands:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryukyu_Islands
Okinawa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okinawa_Prefecture
Izu Islands:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izu_Islands
Ogasawara Islands: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonin_Islands

Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1001.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Nagasaki (Part II) November 9, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kyushu, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Nagasaki (Part II)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-uL

One of the better areas of Nagasaki is the Glover Park area.  It’s a large area at the south end of Nagasaki itself.  The area contains Glover Garden, Oura Catholic Church, and the nearby Holland (Dutch) Slope.  The Holland Slope is something that can easily be skipped.  It’s a nice place with lots of history.  There are a few items of interest, but in reality, other than a few plaques and an old style road, it’s not special.  The Oura Catholic Church is something that should be visited.  While entrance to the church requires a fee, visiting the grounds outside is free.  You can easily just walk around the outside and not worry too much.  Inside, you will see a typical western style church architecture and art.  It is the oldest church in Japan and a national treasure.  The inside of the church is not particularly interesting, but paying the fee means they can help maintain the church for historical reasons, at least I think so.  Outside, you can learn a lot about the history of the Catholic Church in Japan.  The church is dedicated to the 26 martyrs, Catholics who were crucified when Christianity was outlawed, and also the history of Catholicism during this period.  You can see a few of the artefacts on how they hid their faith within Buddhism and Shinto.  The outside ground of the church was quite interesting as you can see the Japanese influences on the surrounding gardens and their take on Catholicism.

From the church, it’s a relatively short walk to Glover Garden.  It’s a long way to the top of the hill, but when you pay the admission and get to the top, it’s a nice place to relax.  If you are from outside Asia, you might not care too much for the park.  There is a lot of history in this open air museum.  You will see old buildings of the former government officials and other foreign dignitaries in Glover Garden.  You will be able to see the history of Japan during the Meiji Restoration, I think.  It’s the period of time when Japan was becoming westernized and leading up to the period before World War II.  You can see Europeans in traditional Japanese clothes, and vice versa.  While I didn’t care too much for the buildings, I will say that the entire park was beautiful and worth a visit.  What you take from it will depend on your own personal mindset.   If you keep in mind that the architecture will be more European with Japanese accents, you’ll be able to appreciate it a lot more.  I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a top 10 in Japan.  It was a must see for me though.

Nagasaki has two places in two different “Japan’s Top 3” lists.  The Top 3 list was created, in my opinion, to spark interest in various regions and promote tourism within Japan.  Unfortunately, this has become so rampant that the top 3 lists are losing their value, and in all honesty, I don’t think some of them warrant a mention.  For example, I mentioned earlier that the Nagasaki Chinatown was small and not very interesting, yet it’s part of the top 3 Chinatowns in Japan.  In fact, Chinatowns in Japan are far from exciting.  The second point of interest for Nagasaki, in terms of top 3 items, is the night view.  Nagasaki is part of the top 3 night views, along with Hakodate, and Kobe/Osaka.  I spent some time going to Mt. Inasa to check out the night view one evening.  Going there, you have to go through the Fuchijinja (shrine).  It’s a small shrine that is located next to the ropeway at the base of Mt. Inasa.  The ropeway is, of course, the easiest method to access the top of the mountain.  The shrine itself is beautifully set and there are some interesting smaller shrines just above the main shrine.  They have 6 shrines dedicated to the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.  It was the first time I had seen something like that in Japan, and I’d recommend a quick trip up to see these small shrines.  To reach the top of Mt. Insasa, you have to either take the ropeway, or drive up to the top.  When you go up to the top of Mt. Inasa, it’s nice to get their a little early to see the sunset along with the night view, of course.  It doesn’t take long to take a few pictures and return back to Nagasaki.  At the top, if you arrive a little late, in time for the sunset, there isn’t much to do.  Most of the shops are closed before dinner, and to be honest, there aren’t many shops at all.  I was surprised that a Top 3 Night View had so little in the way of things to do, and the ropeway closed early as well.  I’d say it’s worth the trip to the top as the view is very nice.  Whether I’d say it’s one of the best in Japan or not is debatable, but if something is recommended, why not try it.

Nagasaki is a lot bigger than you can expect.  You don’t have to do too much to get around and see everything.  While you can walk around and see almost everything without using public transportation, I didn’t get a chance to see some of the other famous sights, such as the peace park, and a Chinese temple.  It was a little far from the area I was staying in, but if I do go back to Nagasaki, those are two places that I will have to visit.  I do think that visiting Nagasaki is an important place, and there is a lot more to do than you would expect.  Whether you rush and do everything over a couple days, or take your time and spend several days there, you will leave very happy.

This is Part II of a two part series on Nagasaki.  To read more on Nagasaki, please head over to Part I.

Nagasaki Information:

Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Nagasaki
Japan’s Top 3 (Wikitravel): http://wikitravel.org/en/Japan%27s_Top_3
Japan Guide: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2162.html
Nagasaki Tourism Agency: http://www.nagasaki-tabinet.com/mlang/english/

Oura Church (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ōura_Church
Meganebashi (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megane_Bridge

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Nagasaki (Part I) November 2, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kyushu, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Nagasaki (Part I)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-uD

Nagasaki is a small city located in Kyushu, southern Japan.  It is often one of the most overlooked cities in Japan as it’s far from Tokyo.  It is one of the most historically important cities in Japan, but a city without the traditional culture of Kyoto, or the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.  It was one of the very few ports that allowed trade with the Europeans from the 16th to 19th centuries.  When visiting Nagasaki, you can easily see this influence in the architecture.  In the modern era, Nagasaki is more infamously known as being the second and last city to be bombed by an atomic bomb.  While the bombing in Hiroshima is well known, very few people outside Japan remember that a second bomb was dropped in Nagasaki.  When people hear this, they tend to be a bit surprised. Nagasaki is a very different city to Hiroshima.  Rather than promoting peace through education, they have decided to grow past it, and much of the city focuses on its history with the Portuguese and Dutch.  That’s not to say that they don’t still remember and commemorate the tragedy of the Nagasaki Bombing.

The first thing to know about Nagasaki is that it’s a hilly town.  Getting around town can be difficult as you have to climb up and down various hills.  If you are staying in the main area, there is nothing to worry about.  You can easily walk from Nagasaki Station to wherever you need to go, without taking the tram or a bus.  However, if you are carrying bags, it’s a good idea to take public transportation.  The station area is a very busy area that is full of cars and people.  It’s the centre transfer point as the final stop for the JR lines is Nagasaki Station.  You must transfer to one of the many buses, or the trams to get anywhere else within the downtown core.  Walking south along the harbour will take you to Dejima Wharf, and a nice park.  This area is a great place to relax during the day.  There are a few large shopping malls between the park and the station, but once you cross into Dejima Wharf, you suddenly enter a different world. Dejima Wharf is like any typical tourist wharf area.  There are boats and lots of bars and restaurants.  It’s probably one of the nicest places I’ve seen and I’d love to go back and enjoy a day just drinking on the wharf.  Just past the wharf is a nice large park that is on reclaimed land.  It’s where the Japanese Coast Guard moor their various ships and also for summer festivals.  When I went in July 2010, they had a big summer long festival where you can get all of the local foods, get free entertainment, and enjoy fireworks from time to time.  It was a bustling place with thousands of people enjoying themselves.

Next to the park and wharf is Dejima itself.  Dejima was a colony/prison island for Europeans.  When the Portuguese and Dutch did their trading during the isolation period in Japan, they were limited to this island.  Today, you’d be hard pressed to tell that it was an actual island.  The river that isolated the island is only several metres wide, and it doesn’t look that deep or dangerous.  The waters were very calm and no dangerous animals in sight.  In fact, as Nagasaki grew over the years, so did the land area.  Dejima used to be an island that was surrounded by Nagasaki Bay, but they have since reclaimed the land and the entire area is surrounded by land.  The most interesting aspect of this area is that they still had some old warehouses and churches in the area.  If you are walking along the river, you can see the old buildings.  The entire Dejima area is now a museum and you can enter the museum itself, but you must pay an entry fee.  Inside, you will be able to see some scale models of the island from the old days, and you might see some artefacts of the island as well.  Personally, I didn’t bother to enter, but if I return again, I will.

Nagasaki is well known for its Chinatown.  There are three famous Chinatowns in Japan, Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki.  The Chinatown in Nagasaki is probably the smallest of the three, and it wasn’t very special.  It’s a nice place and easily visited within 10 minutes.  There are the typical Chinese red gates throughout the area, but at night, they have special lights at the top of the gates within Chinatown with various pictures of dragons and tigers.  The entire area felt like a typical Chinatown tourist trap.  Various Chinese restaurants and some medicine shops were the main attraction.  For those who aren’t into visiting Chinatown, if you head a little further north, you’ll run into the shopping area of Nagasaki.

The shopping area of Nagasaki is a nice place to relax during the day.  At night, it’s busy and difficult to get around.  I’d suggest avoiding it after 4pm if you are looking to have a relaxing trip.  If you continue north along the shopping arcade, rather than east-west, you will come to a nice small quiet street where you can see various small shops selling crafts.   The character alone is worth a short visit as you never know what treasure you will find there.  Heading in this direction will also lead to Meganebashi, or Spectacles Bridge.  It’s supposedly the oldest stone bridge in Japan, and the water is so clean that on a sunny day, the reflection in the water with the arches makes the bridge look like a pair of spectacles.  The area itself is very clean and you can view the bridge from two areas, one that is level to the bridge deck itself, and the other is from the river.  It’s a nice place to visit, but in reality, nothing special.  If you do have the time, please go and visit the landmark, but if you don’t have the time, don’t worry about missing it.   It’s not a must see in Nagasaki.

This is Part I of a two part series on Nagasaki.  Please continue reading Part II.

Nagasaki Information:

Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Nagasaki
Japan Guide: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2162.html
Nagasaki Tourism Agency: http://www.nagasaki-tabinet.com/mlang/english/
Japan’s Top 3 (Wikitravel): http://wikitravel.org/en/Japan%27s_Top_3

Dejima (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dejima
Meganebashi (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megane_Bridge

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Huis Ten Bosch (Nagasaki) October 19, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kyushu, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Huis Ten Bosch (Nagasaki)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-ux

Huis Ten Bosch is a theme park located north of Nagasaki near the town of Sasebo.  It is a Japanese theme park that replicates a typical looking Dutch town.  They have obtained permission to recreate in full form the Royal Huis Ten Bosch Palace in the Netherlands.  Literally translated from Dutch as “House in the Forest”, Huis Ten Bosch is far from that.  It’s a typical Japanese theme park that has recently been updated, but still less relevant to those looking to see what I’d call, “Japan”.

Being a Dutch theme park, you would be hard pressed to see anything in the area that relates to Japan.  You won’t be seeing any temples or shrines, nor will you see much in the way of Japanese products.  The entrance into the park itself is like going to Disneyland.  You pay an admission fee, and then you decide whether to pay extra for a passport pass or individual “ride” tickets.  Even from the outside, the entire theme park is pretty impressive.  While most of the park is not viewable from the main entrance, you can still see various interesting Euro styled buildings outside.  You will not feel like you are in Japan, aside from the hundreds of Japanese people walking around.  It is rare to see any Europeans at Huis Ten Bosch, and it’s unlikely that you’ll see many foreign tourists from other places, aside from other Asian countries due to the theme of the park.  While that is said, if you don’t have plans to visit Europe, it’s still a nice place to visit while in the Nagasaki and Sasebo region, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say you must visit this theme park.

There are several great things about Huis Ten Bosch.  The gardens are one of them.  At the main entrance, there are several gardens lining a canal system that is used for boats that transport you from one end of the park to the other, and also serves as a nice tour of the park.  These boats ply the waters up and down all day taking tourists for a nice scenic adventure.  I would probably avoid this and enjoy a nice walk through the park instead.  There are several points of interest located throughout the park.  After passing the canal system, you’ll be in the “village” areas.  The first village area is full of regular shops selling local Sasebo and Nagasaki goods.  Being in Huis Ten Bosch, you will be inundated with the prospects of buying cheese and chocolate.  These are the two most popular items available. Cheese is famous in Europe and being a Dutch themed park, they have a variety of European cheeses for sale.  It’s also popular to buy chocolate as most Japanese cities are famous for their own take on one of the most popular deserts in the world.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s that special, so it’s unlikely that you’ll get anything out of it either.  While the cheeses and chocolate are delicious, you will be paying the import premium on European cheeses, and the theme park premium on domestically produced goods.  As you continue through the park, you will come towards the hotel district which borders the opposite end of the park.  The park itself has two entrances, one for trains and buses, and the other for ferries.  The ferry entrance is located in the back.  Do be aware that as you pass the hotel district, you will come to a gate where you will exit the admission area of the park.  You are required to show your ticket upon re-entry.  Once you pass this gate, you’ll be in a more historical looking area of Huis Ten Bosch.  This is the port area of the park where you can see various tall ships docked at the port, and several shops that are housed in what appears to be old brick factories or warehouses.  They are generally new buildings with an old facade, but it is a nice place to visit with various quirky goods to be had.  It is also in this area that you can visit the Huis Ten Bosch Palace.  While I didn’t actually enter the palace, it did look nice from the fence.

Aside from a walk through the park itself, you can purchase a passport pass, or individual tickets for various attractions.  This is a family theme park, so expect family oriented activities and attractions.  The activities and attractions range from theatres, to museum pieces.  When I visitied Huis Ten Bosch, there was a 3D art project where 3D images were painted on walls, as well as a mirror maze.  Each attraction is roughly 300 to 500 yen per attraction, but I doubt it was worth the price for individual tickets.  I entered the mirror maze for 300 yen and was disappointed at how short it was.  For 300 yen, I was funnelled through in about a minute.  It looked old inside and I didn’t get lost at all.   There was roughly one easy route through the maze, and the only people who would have trouble are kids.  I ended up doubling back in an attempt to get my money’s worth.  It helped a little, but unfortunately, it isn’t worth more than 100 yen.  If you do decide to go to any of the attractions, think about buying a passport.  Paying for each attraction individually is not worth it.  If you visit all of the attractions, you can expect to spend all day looking at stuff.  You might even need two days to see everything available to you.  If you have children, this will be a great place for them to just see and do all sorts of things and have fun at the same time.

In terms of food, Huis Ten Bosch has a lot of interesting things to choose from.  During the summer months, you can get a Sasebo specialty, the Sasebo burger.  Do beware that a Sasebo burger has no specific specification as to what it is.  It’s basically a basic burger with various things inside, but made in Sasebo.  Some are delicious, others are not.  You may end up being disappointed in the end.  There are also various desert shops for the typical cakes and chocolates.  As I mentioned, one of the more famous foods to eat is cheese.  Wherever you go, you will be able to find shops selling cheese that is direct from Europe.  Huis Ten Bosch also has their own brand of cheese, which isn’t cheap either.  If you are in Nagasaki, and going through the airport, you rest easily if you are hungry for Huis Ten Bosch cheese as you can buy some at the airport.  The other famous cheese related food is a type of cheesecake.  There is a special local version of baked and rare cheesecake that is very delicious.  If you have the chance, I’d recommend trying it out.  When I went to Huis Ten Bosch it was the middle of summer. It was hot and a little humid, so keeping hydrated was important.  Thankfully, I found a nice outdoor area near the hotels where I could buy a nice ice cold beer and relax for an hour.  Whether this is a permanent area for food or not, it’s a great place to relax and it feels as if you are in a European plaza.

As I mentioned, Huis Ten Bosch is not a place for everyone.  It’s a great place to take a girl for a date, and great for families.  A single day at this park is more than enough for most people, but many Japanese tour books recommend spending at least two days.  In order to see all of the free sights, you don’t need two days.  If you are from North America, or Europe, you probably won’t care much for it.  It is very picturesque and I took hundreds of pictures while I was there.  I loved the buildings and the cleanliness of the entire park.  However, I probably wouldn’t return again.  Instead, I’d probably head a little farther north and visit Sasebo instead.  I’m assuming it would be a lot nicer, definitely cheaper, and a lot more fun.

Huis Ten Bosch Information:

Official Site (This is all you really need to understand what you can see and do there):http://english.huistenbosch.co.jp/index.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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