In the past few years, my family and I have been frequent visitors to Sasebo, a seaside city in Nagasaki Prefecture. In all that time, however, we had never once stopped into the Huis Ten Bosch complex, a Dutch-themed amusement park just a few kilometers below the city.
“Dutch?”, you may be asking yourselves? But in this part of Japan, it makes complete sense. The Dutch East India trading company was one of Japan’s only major trading partners for the centuries that Japan remained essentially closed to the west and the Netherlands retained posts in both Hirado and Nagasaki, to the north and south of Sasebo respectively.
Unlike the cramped conditions of those former settlements, Huis Ten Bosch fairly sprawls across multiple zones. While one section of the park is free to wander around, most people pay the (hefty) admission price to gain access to the theme park section, with areas like Amsterdam City, Harbor Town and Adventure Park. Horse-drawn carts and boats link the sections together, or you can rent family bikes to get yourself around.
The details of the park are meticulous, from the gables on the canal houses to the working windmills in front of the flower fields to the cheese fondue in the restaurants. It was rather unsettling in a sense – I felt like I was walking down a street in Amsterdam, only everyone was Japanese and no one was eating stroopwafel.
Yet despite the amount of space, we found an inordinate amount of it devoted to consumerism and gift shops. Granted, our daughter was a bit too young for the Thriller City section of the park that focused on frightening rides, but we only really took advantage of the carousel, the boat cruise and the ridiculously complicated but fun maze. At the cost of ¥6200 per adult for the full-pass and ¥3900 for even a 4-year-old, it didn’t add up to great value in my mind and we probably won’t return. You have the option of buying a more limited pass, but it doesn’t really allow you to do much more than walk around, though for some that may be enough. You then have the option to pay at individual attractions for a separate ticket.
If you’re set on seeing Huis Ten Bosch, I would time your visit to coincide with one of their major flower festivals. From late February to late April, thousands of tulips carpet the fields here while May and June bring big displays of roses. We managed to hit the that one solitary week in between festivals and it was admittedly a bit disappointing. Also, to really get your money’s worth, stay for the evening light shows.
Check out Huis Ten Bosch’s English website for ideas on how best to plan your trip.