It’s been a while since I last wrote. Looking at how the world is still constantly being flipped upside down by the mischief of Rona-chan, while most of us are itching to get on that next flight out of the country for some long-awaited vacay fun, it does look like international traveling is thrown off the window indefinitely for now.
I am sure even people who live in this heaven on earth called Japan (maybe except me aha) are looking forward to explore places outside of the island, as I have been hearing how some of my fellow friends in Japan miss visiting Hawaii, or New York, or Paris…
While it’s hard for me to share the exact sentiment as I think I have lucked out to be stuck on the bestest place on the planet, I do understand the longing for something unfamiliar and exotic once in a while, more so when you are not allowed the freedom to do so.
However, to be honest, after living in Japan for a while now, traveling outside of the country kind of intimidates me. Given how much of a scatterbrain I am, I will probably misplace all my phone, camera and wallet under 1 hour upon arriving a foreign land. And then I am also stressed out about all the bargaining, having to watch your belongings attentively, getting familiar with tipping system, and… unknown hygiene.
And so, I have found the perfect solution for those who are currently stuck in Japan but are looking for a piece of adventure abroad – to travel around the world, IN JAPAN.
That’s right. Japan itself is like a grand version of Disney’s It’s A Small World – having a plethora of exotic-themed parks and resorts tucked between traditional Japanese setting from all over different prefectures.
I have compiled a list of countries you can travel to, all within Japan in this article, so let’s embark on an epic odyssey to see the world in the comfort of my favorite country!
Huis Ten Bosch
First, we are visiting one of the most elaborated Dutch-themed attraction all the way in Kyushu – Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki. Being one of the most popular amusement parks in Japan, Huis Ten Bosch is as close as a local version of the Netherlands’ canals, tulip fields and windmills you can get.
Other than an authentic setting, you can also find lots of seasonal allures here including floral extravaganza and romantic winter illuminations. And of course, Dutch cheeses. Yup. It’s all gouda. And also sometimes, attractions that are not-so-Dutch – a One Piece pirate ship, y’all anime fans?
This reminded me so much of Amsterdam!
Wanna travel Kyushu? You can read my complete guide on maximizing the benefits of JR Kyushu Rail Pass here.
2. Hawaii (Fukushima)
Spa Resort Hawaiians
Aloha! Next up we are hopping over to every Japanese’s dream paradise – Hawaii.
Truth to be told, I have been to Hawaii once and I honestly prefer just Kamogawa in Chiba prefecture HAHAHA. I don’t think anyone could ever understand this. #cultmode
However the obsession with azure blue skies, warm climate and just the fact that you can now boast about your donut float over unicorn-colored shaved ice and ukulele playing in the background all in the glory of Insta cliche, is totally legit and justifiable. So let’s take a mini escapade to this tropical paradise! You can get a slice of the exotic island at Spa Resort Hawaiians, in Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture.
There’s a massive indoor water park for all the wet fun, but the best part of the resort is actually its super aawesome, but ironically, totally super classically Japanese hot spring facility. The highlight of the theme park is Hula Girls – an authentic Polynesian dance show that’s absolutely mesmerizing. I suspected the girls installed electric hips over their hula skirts.
Be sure to check out all the Hawaiian-themed souvenirs in the gift shop. You will find limited edition goods such as the eternally popular Hawaiian macadamia nuts and Hawaiian Ricca-chan. I would assume that she’s a hafu.
3. Mediterranean Countries (Mie)
Shima Mediterranean Village
Alright. It’s time to sail over to the Mediterranean Sea for more exotic adventures!
Dreaming of going on a stroll to discover all sorts of Andalusia charm, taking in gorgeous view of Mykonos coastlines, sipping cappuccino at a Sardinian cafe, before you hop over for a pampering Turkish hammam bath all in one day? Shima Mediterranean Village has it all covered for you.
Filled with endless photogenic spots at every corner you turn, not only is this Mediterranean-themed resort located in Shima city, Mie Prefecture a perfect getaway to sooth that much needed travel itch, you also get to score lots of Insta point making your friends envious of your “overseas” grand vacation!
Now I only wish they have exotic-looking waitstaff who pretend that they don’t understand a word of Japanese.
4. Germany (Chiba)
Tokyo German Village
I have been to Germany twice, and I appreciate how it is in many aspects similar to Japan – orderly, safe, and most of all no-nonsense when it comes to doing business properly. I probably felt the most relaxed during my holidays in Berlin and Munich, knowing that I’m unlikely to be ripped off with tourist prices or suddenly being intimidated into paying a “help fee” to someone I thought was just genuinely being friendly.
So yes, here’s where you can get a dose of that Deutsch countryside charm, right here in Tokyo… oops I mean Chiba.
Tokyo German Village, Just like Tokyo Disneyland, this nature park is technically located… surprised – not in Tokyo, but its friendly neighbour, Chiba.
The country farm located in Sodegaura City of Chiba Prefecture offers a variety of attractions that are family-friendly. You can take a stroll in the vast nature embellished with seasonal flowers, or spend the entire afternoon at huge playgrounds and lots of space for the kiddos to run around, or indulge in some intimate animal fun at the petting zoos.
Although a totally Japanese thing to do, couples also visit the park to enjoy the night illuminations lit up in mesmerizing lights, while enjoying a pint of special brew and those yummy bratwurst.
5. Europe (Wakayama)
On a budget but want to see all of Europe? Come to Porto Europa of Wakayama Marina City in – yes – Wakayama Prefecture!
Porto Europa is a full-scale reproduction of streets in France, Italy and Spain surrounded by the seaside of Wakayama. While the ambience is indeed romantic, there are lots of amusements and thrilling rides for both some adult and junior fun.
It’s also worth noting that Porto Europa is located right next to Kuroshio Market, one of the most popular attractions of Wakayama Prefecture. So… if pizzas and earl grey is not your cup of tea, hop over next door to enjoy some of the freshest sushi and seafood bowl! More about Wakayama Prefecture in this article here.
To be honest, I didn’t have the time to explore the park properly, but it looked to me rather quiet when I visited back in 2019. I cannot imagine how it must be like mid-covid, hopefully one day I would return and see it still thriving.
6. England (Oita)
Yufuin Floral Village
Many of you are probably familiar with this beautiful attraction of Yufuin, an onsen town in Oita Prefecture, for how internationally popular it is. But did you know that the Yufuin Floral Village is modeled after the street of the Cotswolds region in England, which was also used as the filming location for the Harry Potter series?
Owl lovers will be thrilled to find out that you can encounter these big-eyed creatures up-close, just like the magical world of Harry Potter… but wait a second, is that Swiss flags I see in the background? Hmm…
Apparently, it looks like Yufuin Floral Village is pretty much home to a magical collection of adorable anime characters, so you may also chance upon the Jiji, the black cat in Kiki’s Delivery as well as the legendary Heidi, Girl of the Alps.
Other than its rendition of English and Swiss kawaii-ness, you can expect lots of chic handicrafts, souvenirs, and immerse in the fantasy world of your favorite anime or books.
After that, it’s time for that soothing onsen in Yufuin which is omnipresent, and grab a bite of that award winning croquette. Now, aren’t you glad that we are still in Japan? 😀
7. America (Okinawa)
If your are looking for some shopping, and partying excitement, or even watch a Hollywood film in English, here’s where you can get a slice of America’s bustling vibe – American Town of Chatan, in Okinawa’s main Island, Naha.
Although I reckon this a rather touristy locale, it was nonetheless very exhilirating for me to see something so untypically Japanese. I was there in January this year, but it felt like I have time-slipped or still stuck in a jet-lag with the whole town painted in full Christmas vibe!
Also, this lively little district is located right by the Sunset Beach, where one can enjoy the gorgeous sunset over amazing craft beers by local breweries. I think it’s a pretty ideal spot to just relax and let those worries slip away along with the gentle waves of the Okinawan ocean, if you ask me.
8. Venice (Tokyo)
La Vita Jiyugaoka
If you are looking for a quick escapade abroad, here’s a charming spot right home in Tokyo to enjoy your afternoon at – La Vita, Jiyugaoka.
Albeit being nothing more than just a mini piazza, La Vita has everything quintessentially Venetian – a canal with a gondola parked by the bridge against classic Italian backdrop. Now all we need are some risotto al nero di seppia.
I was just there a couple of days ago totally loving the refreshing vibe of the chic neighbourhood of Jiyugaoka. Note that there are also lots of stylish cafe and small boutiques you can explore so it makes a perfect girly afternoon date!
It is interesting that I also came across a completely authentic traditional Japanese tea house called Kosoan in the area, so if you wanna teleport yourself back to the Edo period of old Nippon, know that it is literally like just a few second’s walk from our Little Venice.
9. The whole world!! (Tochigi)
Tobu World Square
Okay… it looks like the author is getting greedy and want to conquer the entire world now!! (No really, I just want to travel the world in Japan.)
So, here’s the ultimate spot to have your around-the-world dream come true – Tobu World Square located in Kinugawa Onsen, Tochigi Prefecture.
This miniature world exhibits 1/25th scale replicas of famous buildings from around the globe, separated into different zones such as Asia, Europe, traditional Japanese and modern Japanese.
I have been to Tobu World Square twice, and you can read my review on Tobu World Square here!
So yes, it’s totally possible to travel around the would under a couple of hours, here at Tochigi.
If those places around Japan has piqued your interest in exploring the world from within Japan, you may be glad to know that there are many, many more locales of the same theme waiting for you to explore! Here are some of the places on my list which I have yet been, and I have compiled it for your reference:
1. Denmark (Chiba)
Funabashi Andersen Park, named after world-famous fairy-tale author Andersen from Denmark, is a family-friendly theme park that has an authentic Danish farmhouse vibe that boasts to be one of the most popular theme park in Chiba, and perfect for those who are looking for an affordable alternative to the prefecture’s star attraction, Disneyland and DisneySea.
2. Scotland (Gunma)
If you are looking for something even more authentic, know that Lockheart Castle is an original castle constructed in Edinburgh in the 1800s before being dismantled and reconstructed in 1993 in Agatsuma District, Gunma. It’s a popular dating spot for couples as it is the only place elected as “Koibito no Seichi” – Lover’s sacred ground in North Kanto region. Perhaps you wanna ring the bell on top of the tower that is said to bring you and your lover eternal happiness!
3. Switzerland (Yamanashi)
Yamanashi Prefectural Flower Center, known as Heidi’s Village, gives a peek into the scenic mountainous country with its recreation of a village in the Swiss Alps. Given the prefecture’s vast nature and home to Mt Fuji, I can see why it is a good fit for a Swiss-theme townscape.
4. Brazil (Okayama)
If exotic tropical paradise is your cup of tea, there’s an amusement park just for you – Brazilian Park Washuzan Highland. Roller coasters, bungee jumping… lots of thrill awaiting! The breathtaking view of the Seto Inland Sea on top of the mountain is for sure an extra bonus!
5. Greece (Kochi)
I have been to Santorini myself and was blown away by its beauty, and Villa Santorini looks like every Grecian dream come true! Although not a full-scale attraction, this resort hotel provides the most bona fide experience for those who who fantasize about a dream holiday away on this island on the Aegean sea. I bet one would totally forget that they are actually still in Japan!
6. Canada (Hokkaido)
Given its geographical similarity being a northern country, Hokkaido is the ideal host for a Canadian-themed facility – Canadian World. Located in Ashibetsu city in the Sorachi subprefecture, this Canadian Village was originally an amusement park ran out of business in the 90s, and is adopted by the city as a public park, but according to the latest info it has turned into a company-run private facility, again, in 2020. It seems like the park is very quiet but meticulously modeled after “Anne of Green Gable”, a classic Canadian novel written in 1908.
That’s all for today. Living in Japan now, I myself can’t wait to explore some of these hidden gems full of exotic vibes abroad, all in the comfort of being within Japan. If you have seen too many shrines, temples and traditional townscape of Japan and are craving for something a little different, or even missing home, I hope some of these places I have introduce would make a refreshing stop for your next adventure where you can immerse yourself in a foreign setting that’s atypical of the everyday Japan.
Just remember that when that hunger pang hits, there’s always the 24-hour combini stop and when you need an extra something to add to your itinerary, there’s always an onsen or other familiar options somewhere nearby, whenever, wherever. After all, isn’t that the perks of traveling abroad in Japan – to be able to enjoy everything you miss about Japan all in an instant? That’s the beauty of Japan that I swore to never take for granted.
PS: If you enjoy this article, it would mean the world if you could help me support Japan by buying a daikon!