When I first saw the images of Nagasaki Holland Village I had to blink a few times. Holland, Japan, The Netherlands…. Holland in Japan? As a Dutch person myself I found it hard to believe the houses and windmills in the image above for example were actually made and build on the other side of the world. But there they were, and of course I had to know more about it. Read about the history of Nagasaki Holland Village, about why it was build, how it was operated and what has happened to the park since then.
The idea of building a village that resembled Holland (or The Netherlands as is the official name) did not come out of nowhere. The Dutch first arrived with their ship De Liefde on Kyushu around 1600. They were the first to set foot on Japanese soil, and through the VOC they established a trading factory on the island of Hirado to the north of Nagasaki.
History of Nagasaki Holland Village
In 1641, the Dutch were forced to move to an artificial fan-shaped island of about 120m by 75m, Dejima, off the coast of Nagasaki. Ultimately Dejima became more important to the Japanese than the Dutch, as they used their connections to the Dutch for ‘Western studies and knowlegde’. You can still visit Dejima island. Most of the buildings are still preserved and create an interesting mix of Western and Eastern architecture. Below a video of Dejima Island.
Construction of Holland Village
How did the construction of Dejima connect to Holland Village Nagasaki? It all started with the Japanese architect Yoshikuni Kamichika, who searched for opportunities to develop the area around Omura bay for tourists. He didn’t want to harm the harmony between nature and men, and therefore he visited the Netherlands, where he saw how the Dutch created land out of water without actually disturbing nature. Kamichika decided to build a theme park where a Dutch city would be combined with Japanese technology. On July 22 in 1983, Nagasaki Holland Village welcomed its first visitors. The vision of Kamichika was to faithfully replicate a townscape of the Netherlands, with its deep ties to Nagasaki, down to the last cobblestone. Holland Village Nagasaki became so populair it was even dubbed “the Disneyland of the West”.
Huis ten Bosch theme park
At its peak in 1990, Nagasaki Holland Village attracted more than 2 million visitors. However, Kamichika was not done with his project yet. In 1988 he began planning something that was, carefully said, extremely ambitious and a project so big it would get recognition throughout the world: Huis ten Bosch. Under the impression that everything was possible (there was an economic bubble in Japan at that time), he designed a landscape with six kilometers of canals, 400.000 trees, 300.000 flowers and at least 3.2km of underground tunnels for communications, energy, and water infrastructure. In between rose famous structures from the Netherlands one after another: De Dom of Utrecht, Het Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam and of course Huis ten Bosch (see photo above). I will write more about this amazing park in another post. Below a replica of the ship the Prins William in Holland Village (the largest ship at the time of the Dutch East India Company).
Nagasaki Holland Village closure
I recently saw the theme park in detail when the very populair Dutch tv-show ‘Wie is de Mol’ filmed an assignment in Nagasaki Holland Village. Sadly it became a ghost town since its closure in 2001. Not only was the opening of big brother Huis Ten Bosch (more on that theme park later on) a few kilometres away a financial stab, the long recession that occurred almost at the same time was too much for the park to recover from. It’s kind of sad to see such a large and (in my opinion) nice park with once over 2 million visitors a year now only collecting termites and mold. Somehow I hope an investor will find a way to make the theme park attractive to visitors again. Maybe a focus on water activities or unique Dutch workshops? Below a video of the show Wie is de Mol, and you can clearly see the current state of Holland Village (start watching at 19.00).
Nagasaki Holland Village restoration
Instead of water activities, the owners tried to to turn the tide of Nagasaki Holland Village by turning it into a food theme park, Cas Village. It failed within six months and by the end of 2009 the village was nothing more than a carcass savaged by termites. In September 2009 the city of Saiki decided to spend about 156million Yen (about 1.7 million dollar) to restore part of the park to house the Seihi municipal offices, where Kamichika started his adventure all those years ago.
Nagasaki Holland Village and Dejima island are great to visit in combination with Gunkanjima Island.