The Tokyo German Village
by Jordan Mounteer
One of the more unique attractions in Japan just so happens to be a German themed village outside of Chiba. Japan has always been known for its love of other cultures – and, in fact, the Japanese love of travel is just as famous – and this has inspired a number of fascinating ‘themed villages’ throughout Japan. Still, none is more famous than the Tokyo German Village. During the early 1600’s when Japan enforced its sakoku – or a blockade – that prevented any nationality from landing on its shores, the one exception were the Dutch whose strong Bavarian ties seeped into Japan’s culture and remain there today. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this would manifest in the form of a theme park based on early German life.
Nowadays the Tokyo German Village looks very much as if a small village from rural Germany has been plopped down in the middle of suburban Sodegaura. The classic style architecture of the main buildings are reminiscent of Europe, but at the same time as soon as you approach there are some iconic mascots at the door to greet you, and you’re reminded that you are, in fact, still in Japan. Nevertheless, there are a number of shops and close streets lined with restaurants and shops, and food definitely takes precedence here.
One of the biggest attractions of the locale is the open air eating area. Here, patrons can sit on big tables with other visitors while vendors go to work on classic German specialty cuisine, and during the summer the smells of smoke and meat inundate the small canopy. Of course, there are also a number of restaurants as well if you’re into a more intimate – and significantly less crowded – dining experience, but wherever you go you can be sure to indulge in traditional foods like schnitzel (a kind of hammered and thin veal dish that is sometimes breaded), spätzle (a kind of pasta or egg noodle that is similar to udon but served on its own, or with vegetables), bratwurst (large specially made sausages that are served grilled and made of pork), and everything else you can imagine.
Of course, one of the biggest foodie features has to be the libations offered on site. By that, of course, I mean the beer. Germany has always been known for its distilleries and breweries, and are world-renowned for some of their stouts and pilsners. While not always easy to find in Japan, the Tokyo German Village prides itself on being able to supply its visitors with some classic imported choices. We highly recommend going with some of the darker beers they have, and if you’re lucky you might catch them when they have seasonal beers in stock. Of course, while the village itself might not get the same sort of attention or popular following as other attractions in Tokyo like Disneyland, don’t be surprised if during Oktoberfest the place suddenly feels packed – in keeping with the traditional German festival of beer, during this time the village sees an influx of tourists and locals alike!
Other than the food though there are a ton of activities to do, and a lot of them end up being way more fun than they sound. This place is primarily geared towards families and children, so the atmosphere here always feels light and upbeat, and there are some classic attractions to sate your ‘theme park’ desires such as a small Ferris wheel (which runs at night!) and a zoo that houses a variety of animals. It’s a great way to get a bit closer to nature, and there’s always the option of feeding and petting some of the animals. Besides that, you’ll also find a rollercoaster, a funny bike course that involves pedalling on a custom-made bicycle with your friends, and even a sled course. Both in winter and summer months, the sledding hill is open to visitors who can slide down either the grassy lawn or snow-covered slope. Perhaps my favorite (and the most underrated) activity though is archery where you can actually handle a bow and try your aim at targets. Recently they also have a lot of live performances, everything ranging from DIY sessions where you can actually participate in some fun and productive crafts to musical guests that add a hint of atmosphere to the already bustling village.
The seasonal events don’t stop there though. During the winter season there is a spectacular light show that takes place here and nearly two million LED lights create a virtual dance of colors across the property. Every year the light show is different so visitors who come back again and again are always treated to something new. In summer time the real attraction is the flowers and open gardens – there are a number of traditional German style gardens around the acreage as well as greenhouses and a whole array of different flowers and herbs. The lavender fields in particular are especially attractive, and there’s nothing quite like going for a leisurely walk around the ponds before walking up the hills lined with flowers – the wooden walkways offer scenic tours, and you can almost believe you’re walking through the German highlands as you make your way around the circuit.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have your own car it can be a bit of a hassle to get there – by car, it’s about 5 minutes from the Anegasaki-Sodenoura IC, and about 40 minutes by bus from the JR Chiba Station.
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