Huis Ten Bosch
If you're ready for some R & R from your travels in Japan but have only 1 day to spare, perhaps Huis Ten Bosch, in Sasebo (tel. 0956/27-0001; www.huistenbosch.co.jp), will do the trick. This replica of a 17th-century Dutch village boasts tree-lined canals, brick houses, city squares, brick-paved roads, churches, museums, shops, restaurants, hotels, and even stately private homes -- proof at how adept Japanese are at imitation. Most of the buildings are faithful reproductions of originals back in the Netherlands; even the bricks were imported from Holland. Although I was a bit skeptical about visiting an imitation Dutch village in Japan, I must admit that the grounds and craftsmanship are beautifully done (Huis Ten Bosch is also environmentally conscious, with its own desalination and sewage treatment plants; it also generates much of its own energy). Even Holland itself isn't this pristine. In fact, I consider this the country's premier theme park designed for adults. But although there are some rides and attractions, this is not an amusement park in disguise.
Highlights include Palace Huis Ten Bosch, a replica of the formal residence of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, which contains an art gallery and period rooms showing how upper-class Dutch lived; baroque and flower gardens; a mirror maze; children's indoor playground; museums with collections of porcelain, ornamental glass, teddy bears, carillons, and music boxes; and theaters that re-create the flooding of a Dutch town, introduce M. C. Escher's works with a 3-D film, and show a movie in which the audience is the cast (each visitor's face is scanned and instantly digitalized using computer processing). There are also solar-powered cruises of Omura Bay and the village's canals; parades, dances, concerts, and other events daily; more than 50 shops; and more than 40 restaurants (including open-air beer and wine gardens). The park is so vast that there are shuttle buses and other forms of transportation, but to really feel like you're in Holland, rent one of the park's bicycles.
A 1-day Passport Ticket to Huis Ten Bosch and its attractions costs ¥5,600 for adults, ¥4,400 for children 12 to 17, and ¥3,400 for children 4 to 11 (3 and under are free). The best time to visit is spring, during -- what else? -- tulip season. Open March through Christmas, daily 9am to 9:30pm (last entrance 8pm); December 26 through February, 9am to 8:30pm (last entrance 7pm).
To reach Huis Ten Bosch, take the JR Sea Side Liner Express from Nagasaki Station to Huis Ten Bosch Station (1 hr. and 20 min.); the train departs approximately every hour and costs ¥1,430 one-way. Tip: The nimai kippu for ¥2,600, available at Nagasaki Station's JR ticket window, is valid for one round-trip or as a one-way ticket for two people. Also available is an Admission and Round-trip fare ticket for ¥4,800, but a Passport Ticket for ¥6,700 is an even better deal, as it includes the round-trip fare, admission, and entrance to all attractions.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.