To be honest, I didn’t have very high expectation when I visited Tobu World Square, an open-air architecture museum/theme park located in the Kinugawa Onsen area, Tochigi Prefecture.
I have never heard of this theme park before prior to this trip, and the name of the park itself doesn’t give much of a hint, so for me it was more like a by-the-way visit since it is just right across the brand new station “Tobu World Square” en route to Nikko.
But I was blown away by the experience. And I want to recommend every one who is visiting Tochigi to make this a compulsory stop on your itinerary, especially if you are someone who loves taking Instagram-worthy photos!
Around The World!
In short, Tobu World Square is a theme park that features over 100 reproductions of world-famous architectural structures including history relics and world heritage sites.
Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima. It has been moved to Tochigi??
Ah. Now you see.
It’s a place where Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building exist in the same photo.
A world where the Forbidden City in China overlooks Tokyo Sky Tree.
This is not the only miniature-building museum in the world, but it is the only one with all exhibitions scaled exactly at 1/25, with such impressively intricate details beyond my expectation. I was truly humbled by how much effort was put into making this theme park a success (apparently building the whole park took 5 whole years!).
Why should you visit Tobu World Square?
For many reasons (other than educational – learning about historical remains and the importance of its preservation).
1.It makes you feel sentimental seeing a monument or a palace you have previously visited. You get a “omg I was here!” moment. I saw a lot of buildings that I have visited with the danna during our Weddingmoon trip in Europe, it really brings back a lot of fond memories. It was like “hey didn’t we had tea at the cafe right here?!” kind of moment. It’s amazing to see them in front of you again, and this time feel free to pose better and more freely since you don’t have to rush to make a beeline to the photo spot and there’s unlikely other people’s selfie sticks in your photos.😂
2.For those famous spots that you have not seen or been before, it serves as a great chance for you to take a “preview”. Who knows it may inspire your next travel destination!
3. For buildings that usually have restrictions at certain areas, you are able to admire them here, up close from 360° and bird eye’s view. It’s a rare opportunity, more so a unique one, and dare I say that sometimes it is just as good as real.
4. Take unique photos that capture the world’s many architectural sites that cannot be taken at the actual sites. You may even prank your friends (or followers!) if you play with the camera angle a little. I was told that the social media went wild when a photo of the Egyptian Sphinx covered white in snow showed that Cairo had snowed for the first time. Well, it was obviously fake news. That news gave Tobu World Square a tiny bit of international fame.
To be honest, I wished we had allocated more time for this theme park, because we were rushing through it like 走马看花, I only had like a few seconds to snap pictures of a building instead of finding a good angle to make it look super real-size, or take funny photos with the background.
But here are some of the photos for you to have a feel of it! And just for my own sentimental reference, I’m also attaching photos that I had taken at the “real deals” during my previous trips.
A super beautiful maple tree right in front of the theme park.
Omikuji in different languages!
A miniature of the miniature haha. Miniception. XD.
Modern Japan Zone
Enjoy your familiar Tokyo at a 1/25 scale.
You will be welcomed with the gigantic (ironically!!) Tokyo Sky Tree upon entrance to Modern Japan Zone. From this angle it really does look super authentic.
Omg at 1/25 it’s already super super tall, means that in real life it’s really super super X25 tall!!!! Haha.
It was not just the tower itself but the entire Sky Tree town, including Solamachi and… *gasp* the effort omg?!!
This was the first building I saw and I was already beyond dazzled by how realistic the replica was. I mean, “mini” they are, yes, but the architects had not skimped an inch (literally!!!!) on the details.
I was admiring something in pure amazement. The sakura trees. They are real.
You know when I looked at these I almost want to cry. Real miniature cherry blossom trees.
Yes. The theme park prefers real plants to plastic in effort to make that experience as real as possible. There are over 20,000 bonsai trees to bring four seasons to this little world.
I was so so so amazed as to why cherry blossom and maple leaves can co-exist in the same season?!?! Then I was told that apparently this cherry blossom bonsai was a species called “十月桜” (Jyugatsuzakura) that blooms twice a year, in April and in October.
I give them 500% for effort. I mean, can you just imagine how much work is it to maintain the bonsai????
A Tobu train.
Tokyo Dome. It was funny how the Japanese always like to use Tokyo Dome as a land area measurement reference. For example “the rice field is about 80 Tokyo Domes”.
Errr… like it helps anyone to visualize?? Haha. But seeing this, it makes things even more complicated now. Since this is of a scale of 1/25, so the rice field must be 2000 Tobu World Square Tokyo Dome? Like it helps… again.😂
But anyway, now I sort of have an idea that you can fit a lot a lot of people in Tokyo Dome. Like, a lot.
Apparently there are tens of thousands of these figurines in the theme park (?!). I mean, just how much time one spends making ONE tiny human??? All of them have faces. They wear different clothes. They are all doing something, if you look at them closely. Everyone is telling a story of their own. It was indeed a little world of its own.
You may even spot familiar faces especially at the political buildings! I saw Prime Minister Abe at the Diet Building.
The morning buzz at the busy train station in all quiet stillness. Such a An intriguing oxymoron.
Tokyo International airport. This was one of my favorites. This photo is still, but the planes were moving!!!!
My favorite of all favorites. A shot of the most significant landmark of the heart of Tokyo, completely unobstructed by other buildings. Truly a rare view. Plus a beautiful autumn view at the back.
Since all the buildings are outdoor, they are also exposed to all kinds of weathers. It didn’t occur to me that the architecture must be designed in a way to withstand rain, snow and harsh sunlights. So in a way they were built in a way the real-life buildings were constructed to mimic their nature. It’s also interesting to see wet roof tops, and in this case, snow-covered Angkor Wat and Sphinx.
The VIP figurines are also update from time to time. A waving Trump family quickly replaced the Obama’s.
(Here’s where I’m slotting in some of my own fond memories!)
The Parthenon (1/25)
The Parthenon – real life 2013
St Peter’s Basilica (1/25)
St Peter’s Basilica (me inside it, 2013)
The Arc de Triomphe & Eiffel Tower (1/25)
The Arc de Triomphe -real life 2013
Eiffel Tower -real life 2013
The Colosseum (1/25)
The Colosseum -real life 2013
Neuschwanstein Castle (1/25)
The setting is so amazing that it mimics the deep forrest it is located.
Finally I get to have a look at it from the bridge, without the crazy crowd. I didn’t get to do that the last time.\
Neuschwanstein Castle -real life 2013
Sagrada Familia Church (1/25)
The exhibit shows the historic site still under construction.
Sagrada Familia Church -real life 2013
See what I mean? I only had my iphone that time as a camera and this was the best angle I could ever get.
Big Ben (1/25)
Tower Bridge (1/25)
The only photo I had of the Tower Bridge was shot from the top of Big Bus London haha.
Tower of London. #CloseEnough!
Repairing work being done.
Here you get a good gauge at the sizes of these exhibits!
Here you have the Great Wall…
Forbidden City, etc.
Great Sphinx (1/25)
I love this!
Great Sphinx -real life 2013
Haha. I bet some people don’t even know what’s real and what’s not anymore.
The Great Pyramids (1/25)
The Great Pyramids -real life 2013
Traditional Japan Zone
We are back to Japan now ❤︎
Here you get to see buildings of historical significance like palaces, pavilions, temples and shrines, etc.
Himeji Castle (1/25)
Kasuga Taisha (1/25)
And the shadow of a giant looming over…
I love how the exhibits also depicts the rural life of farmers, local festivals, etc.
Everyone’s in their summer yukata.
Horyu-ji Temple (1/25)
You notice the little orange seed-like tiny things hanging on the “tree” on the right of it?
It is actually mini persimmon trees! Omg… The persimmons were probably as tiny as my fingernails. They are so so so mini and cute!!
If you wanna take realistic photos, try a low angle pointing slightly upwards.
Events and Facilities
Right now Tobu World Square is having a night illumination show featuring Taiwanese Lantern. Most of the architecture sites will also be lit up (see Tokyo Tower, Sky Tree and the Great Pyramids in their night lights!!).
Other things they provide include wedding photos (think of your favorite places in the world to be free of tourists!!), Bonsai exhibitions and more!
For those traveling with young kids, I’m happy to report that there’s a huge Kids House for your little ones to take a rest and play (ball pit!). There’s of course nursing rooms and baby dining area equipped with microwave and hot water dispenser, etc!
Muslim travelers can also find an exclusive menu catered for their dietary needs:
So I’d really recommend this place to… everyone of you. ^^
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Honestly, I didn’t expect this blog post to turn out to be so long. Japan is making me sleepless. Because I can’t get enough of it.