“The cold doesn’t matter when the enchantment of the lights heats up your soul” ~ Unknown.
Are you planning a trip to Japan in the winter? You’re not going to want to miss the world’s largest illumination event at beloved Huis Ten Bosch Japan! Featuring all the hallmarks famously associated with Holland, spending a day (and night) at Huis Ten Bosch will catapult us straight into the Netherlands… But the hilly backdrop is a reminder we’re not!
Combining all kinds of amusements, activities using digital technology, interesting museums, places to shop, restaurants, fun adventure rides and more, Huis Ten Bosch in Sasebo, Kyushu is one of the most unique experiences in Japan.
While the genuine windmills, oversized clogs, vibrant tulips, Baroque-style buildings, lengthy canals and Amsterdam-esque bridges are a visual delight, there is more to this fascinating land than meets the eye. But why is there a Dutch theme park in Japan?
Built in 1992 to commemorate the lengthy relationship between the Dutch and Japanese which dates back centuries (more about their trading past in my Nagasaki itinerary), Huis Ten Bosch means “House in the Forest” and gets its name from a residence belonging to the Dutch Royal Family.
As the sun began to dip beneath the horizon, the incredibly realistic buildings made me so natsukashii for my trips to the Netherlands over the years. With exceptional attention to detail Japan is known for, it honestly felt like I was strolling the paved streets of Amsterdam again, a city I adore so much!
So, is Huis Ten Bosch worth visiting for you? If you want to learn how to get there, where to buy tickets, attractions, where to stay afterwards, insider tips and to know what to expect at Huis Ten Bosch, read on for more!
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NOTE: This Huis Ten Bosch guide forms part of my Japan honeymoon itinerary, which combines some popular and offbeat locations over 10-14 days. Even if you’re not visiting for your honeymoon, the itinerary is worth checking out for ideas to “blend in” in Japan!
TIP: When is the best time to visit Huis Ten Bosch? I would say whenever you’re able! In saying that, this Huis Ten Bosch review covers my spectacular winter visit, although the theme park is open year-round. Each season brings its own special themed event, such as summer’s tulip festival.
Reasons to stay 2 nights near Huis Ten Bosch theme park
- Saves the potential 2 hour commute back to Nagasaki city after the stunning night illuminations.
- The winter evenings are close to freezing and it’s ideal to have accommodation at the park. It was 3°C when I returned to my room, and I was thankful for the short walk!
- In winter, the weather can be so different from one day to the next. Flexibility for when to visit Huis Ten Bosch is ideal, so you can select the day with the better weather to go.
- You can use the other day to take a day trip to nearby Arita, a preserved Edo-era town and the birthplace of Japanese porcelain. My guide to visiting Arita has all the details.
TIP: My first night at Huis Ten Bosch was clear and beautiful, but my second night had a snowy blizzard blow in and would have been awful braving it to see the illuminations. I made the right choice!
How to get from Nagasaki to Huis Ten Bosch
Huis Ten Bosch is located in Sasebo, north of Nagasaki Airport and Nagasaki, the closest major city. The fastest way is via direct bus from the airport.
From Nagasaki Airport
55 mins on the Saihai bus, Sasebo direction. It is also clearly marked with Huis Ten Bosch on its side. Cost: 1250 JPY each one way.
TIP: These buses seemed to be timed with arriving flights. After grabbing my luggage off the carousel and buying a bus ticket from the vending machine outside, I only had to queue up for a few minutes. The driver will stow your luggage. More info on the timetable here.
From Nagasaki Station
It will really depend on your train connections here as it can take 75 mins – 2 hours. The fastest way takes around 75 mins via the Nishi Kyushu shinkansen, then switch at Isahaya Station to the Omura Line (Sasebo direction) to Huis Ten Bosch Station. It’s then a short 5 mins walk to the park entrance.
TIP: If you’re flying into Nagasaki Airport as I did, as mentioned earlier it’s a good idea to spend a night or two at the theme park to save having to commute the 2 hours from Nagasaki Station.
TIP: Wondering how to get from Fukuoka to Huis Ten Bosch? It’s 1 hour 40mins by car, or around 2 hours by train from Hakata Station.
Types of Huis Ten Bosch tickets
Take this as your reminder to bookmark this page for later so you can purchase Huis Ten Bosch tickets in advance here. It’s even ok to purchase online the day before or on the day, as there is a dedicated queue to redeem the ticket at the park entrance.
They are available as 1 day, 1.5 day or 2 day passports. After my time there, I think 1 full day is enough for most visitors.
In saying that, there are discounted tickets if visiting after 3pm. This is ideal for just wanting to explore the night illuminations, if travelling solo, or without children and know you can get through the park in a few hours. Select the “After 3” option for the Huis Ten Bosch Japan ticket price here.
TIP: Huis Ten Bosch opening hours are 10:00 – 21:00 Monday – Thursday; 10:00 – 22:00 Friday – Sunday. Fireworks happen twice per month, as indicated on their events calendar. Note that some stores and attractions close earlier in the evening.
Huis Ten Bosch attractions & areas explained
This is the part where I could only find limited English information before my visit, so what I’ve written from here onwards is what I wish I had at the time!
The park is quite large, spanning 152 hectares with upbeat music playing throughout. It’s a miniature city within itself! I recommend exploring in a clockwise loop so it’s easier to trace where you’ve been. There are plenty of restaurants and places to eat along the way.
Consisting of nine areas plus a main event at night, each has their own attractions based on a theme. I’ll break down what’s in each area in my Huis Ten Bosch review below.
Welcome Gate Entrance & Adventure Town
After passing through the ticket gates and the huge Welcome Gate Entrance, I passed by the Adventure Park to look back over the water to the Flower Road. Lined with 3 large windmills, their lattice blades slowly circle against a vibrant flower carpet.
If travelling with kids, they may wish to spend some time enjoying the activities here such as the Dinosaur Woods escape game, Shooting Star zipline, Sky Castle outdoor climbing area, a maze and more.
TIP: Keep an eye out for the cute themed bins. I can’t even!
Attraction Town area
Walking beneath the arch of the twin-spired gate, this next section opens out into a beautiful paved space. Feeling exactly like a typical Dutch town square you’d find in the Netherlands or even Belgium, people were shopping, relaxing, or watching the world go by to the sounds of its detailed water fountain.
Each of the gabled buildings houses its own store specialising in cheese, Castella (the Nagasaki region is famous for this sweet cake), chocolate, 30 varieties of popcorn, and even honey.
Are you into Virtual Reality (VR) games? Around the bend from here is where the digital attractions begin. Fancy trying out a VR reverse bungy? A VR roller coaster? VR torrent rafting? At the Bahamut Disco, you can experience the world’s first VR experience without goggles, too.
There is also a Kids World Fantasy Forest for little ones to play, and Japan’s first three-storey merry-go-round, the Sky Carousel, that becomes beautifully illuminated with the night lights.
Fantasia City of Lights area
Reminiscent of the many teamLab experiences throughout Japan, the Fantasia City of Lights area is next along the route in Huis Ten Bosch.
The are rooms set up with all kinds of interactive light exhibitions such as outer space, seasonal flowers, virtual aquarium, a playground and art museum. Choose the ones that interest you!
TIP: I especially loved the buildings painted in bright colours and murals on their walls here, they can be found near the Yokero attraction building on Jan Steenstraat.
Amsterdam City area
Moving along to the Amsterdam City area, this section has more places to eat and shop for souvenirs than it does attractions. Filled with European goods, Holland House allows visitors to paint their own pair of typical Dutch wooden clogs too!
Within a European-style undercover arcade are more shops for cheese, chocolate, wine, sweets, Kyushu specific goods, Venetian glassware, and even a cafe based on the beloved rabbit cartoon Miffy, who is known as Nijntje in Dutch.
Also in this area is a Fishing Adventure Game, a photo studio where visitors can dress up in traditional costume from the Dutch colonial era, another merry-go-round and a Dragon World Tour VR experience.
My favourite attraction here was the Museum of Glass, housed within Stad House. This is a stunning replica of the Stadhuis Gouda city hall in the Netherlands. Featuring the largest chandelier made from blown glass I’ve ever seen, this small museum displays gorgeous glass pieces from around the world through the centuries. How exquisite are they?!
TIP: This is the area you’ll want to come back to for the Winter Europe illuminations and concert, more down the page!
Harbour Town, Palace Huis Ten Bosch & Forest Villa areas
Located in the southern-most corner of Huis Ten Bosch theme park, unfortunately I actually skipped over these areas as the illuminations were starting to come on around this time. Sorry, sometimes I can get distracted by shiny things.
The Harbour Town area features the Castle of Seafood and Porcelain (interesting combo, right?) selling beautiful Arita-ware and locally caught fish. A sniper game, Porcelain Museum and a separate Jurassic Island can also be found here.
Reconstructed with the permission of the Dutch Royal Family, Palace Huis Ten Bosch gives us a glimpse into the exterior of King Willem-Alexander’s actual residence. The reconstruction has its own expansive Baroque-style Garden of Illusions, which are illuminated at night.
The Palace’s interior Huis Ten Bosch Museum displays artworks from MC Escher, Rembrandt and more, as well as rooms decorated in 17th – 18th century style. Wallpaper made from calf leather and embossed in gold, anyone?
TIP: The Forest Villa is a place to literally recharge: Stay in cottage-style accommodation, pay a few hundred yen to charge your phone at a hotspot or seek help at the Medical Centre.
Tower City area
In my opinion, this is one of the most picturesque spots in Huis Ten Bosch! Looming 105 metres above the theme park below is the iconic Domtoren tower.
I didn’t realise until afterwards that it’s possible to head up to the Observation Platform, with incredible views over the entire park and Omura Bay!
With Domtoren the only attraction, this area is full of restaurants with a variety of international cuisines. It’s so lovely and would be romantic to stroll along the canals and bridges here as the sun sets.
Art Garden area
As our clockwise direction of travel has almost come full circle, the Art Garden is best reserved to last. Here’s why!
There was an illuminated section near the Horse Land, which at ground level appeared to be a bunch of lights tightly strung together. However once up in the White Ferris Wheel, it became obvious this was actually a huge illuminated maze – so pretty and clever!
Being able to see over the entire park at night all lit up was incredibly special, so definitely don’t miss riding the White Ferris Wheel.
Huis Ten Bosch Winter Kingdom of Lights
Comprised of a staggering 13 million bulbs, Huis Ten Bosch’s spectacular Kingdom of Lights winter illumination event is the largest in the world! It was super impressive and one of the reasons why I journeyed to this area of Kyushu.
While the park began to light up at sunset (around 17:30 in winter), the main square in front of the Stad House didn’t light up until a performance which occurred at 18:30. Two English-speaking performers sang a cover of You Raise Me Up, in which fireworks and the illumination of the surrounding square were perfectly timed to.
After the performance, snow started falling from the sky, where I realised this was actually just dishwashing detergent shooting out from the lampposts above, hehe.
TIP: Don’t want to get coated in the foam snow? Stand directly beneath the lampposts and it will float away in the wind’s direction.
Tips for planning your visit to Huis Ten Bosch Nagasaki
As mentioned earlier, I recommend allocating 2 nights here so you can choose the best day to visit according to the weather forecast around the time of your stay. This is especially important in winter when blizzards blow in, as I witnessed during my trip.
Also, I can’t stress this enough: Use the paper map religiously! There is an English version. I honestly wish I used it more instead of just following things that caught my eye. It has everything you can think of clearly marked to make the most of your time.
In terms of shops, it notes stores that sell medicine, battery chargers, paper nappies (diapers), and children’s clothing. All the specialty stores sell gear for rainy days.
Finally, do you love the idea of onsen in Japan? The park even has its own public bath hot spring for an additional fee (600 yen each or 2000 yen for a family).
Concluding this Huis Ten Bosch review
I’ve had visiting Huis Ten Bosch on my lengthy list of places to visit in Japan for many years so when I finally made it, I was in a bit of disbelief. My expectations were exceeded; the attention to detail down to the last weathered brick is exceptional, and the entire park a lovely nod to Japan’s historical ties with Holland.
I’m so glad I’ve experienced it, especially during its magical Winter Europe illumination season. Imagine just how magical Huis Ten Bosch Japan over Christmas would be! Despite the cold, it was absolutely worth it for me.
But is Huis ten Bosch worth visiting for you? Overall as one of Japan’s largest theme parks, I would say it’s a yes. But how long you stay depends on who you’re travelling with.
If you’re visiting with children, I believe a full day and evening in Huis Ten Bosch will be worth it to enjoy at a relaxed pace. However, if travelling as a couple or solo as I was, you may wish to take in the sights, try a few specialties from the stores and soak in the beauty of the night illuminations. In this case, half a day should be enough for you (entry after 3pm for discounted tickets).
That’s a wrap! Did you enjoy my Huis Ten Bosch photos and are planning your visit? I’d love to hear! If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below.
While you’re here, why not take a look at all my Japan travel guides and itineraries to help prepare for your trip? Make sure you don’t miss the UNESCO World Heritage Sites while in Nagasaki Prefecture, find out more in my detailed guide to visiting Nagasaki city.
Or, take a look at my articles for Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Japan’s hidden gems, my guide to etiquette in Japan, and packing list for Japan. Feel free to join me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram for more Japan inspiration!
Until next time,
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