The scene and the pace changed today. So far, I had not done much that I would not have done in my travels as a bachelor. Today was different. I would never have PAID GOOD MULA to visit a FAKE Dutch settlement in Japan. No, not me; I, Miss Quested like, wanted “to see the ‘real’ Japan”, forgetting that faking it is as real as it gets in Japan and that therefore the best way to see the real Japan is to try seeing Japanese holiday-makers enjoying themselves in a fake environment. Once you drop your sniffy Anglo-Saxon conceit you will realize that your concern for the “genuine” is as fake and self-deluding as the Japanese penchant for the “fake” is genuine and self-knowing.
If in the west some are given to faking it until they make it, in Japan it is more a case of making a good fake of it and then charging good mula for the mugs to come and admire it. Nowadays, that includes coach-loads of Korean tourists who for some reason best known to themselves go ga-ga over the place, while the Chinese are already champing at the bit and massing at the gates eager for their share of genuine Japanese fakery.
Today was to be the day, I supposed, when little E would have a whale of a time and I would trudge along as miserable as sin, faking joy and merriment at the various tiresome and endlessly tedious sights and sounds, to say nothing of the asinine comments that would no doubt assail my senses. I should be like a fish out of water, like Faithful at Vanity Fair or the Israelites carried captive into a strange land. I had expected Huis Ten Bosch to be something like a Dutch version of Disneyland, not that I have ever been, or ever intend to go, to Disneyland despite the clamours which have already started to be heard from a certain direction. Paternal indulgence has its limits, its Lutheran moment of making a stand and doing no other and all that. A line has been drawn in the sand; Huis Ten Bosch stands on one side of line, Disneyland on the other.
Not everything is fake at Huis Ten Bosch. The hot spring bath at the ANA hotel (modelled on the Amsterdam station building) is apparently “the only natural hot spring spa in the Huis Ten Bosch area” and very good it is too. We were staying at the hotel for two nights so no matter how dire the day would be, at least there was the cheering prospect of bracketing the suffering with a good hot soak in the soothing natural waters of Kotono-yu.
The day turned out to be quite pleasant; I would even go so far as to suggest that it had been rather enjoyable. We were not barracked at by fellows with loud-hailers, we did not have to queue up for hours on end and pay extortionate fees to enter the various exhibitions and shows – they are all covered by the day ticket. Shop and cafe prices seemed much the same as elsewhere in Japan.
The boat trip around the canal circuit was pleasantly diverting and I was told on more than one occasion that it was not like being in Japan at all, but “just like Holland”, especially when we were facing away from the very un-Dutch Japanese mountains (see pic below).
The lift to the top of the tower is worth the effort of pushing the button. It was while we were up the tower that the one case of “being barracked at” occurred. We had the misfortune of being at the top of the tower when the lift doors opened and a platoon of Korean tourists disgorged itself upon us accompanied by the Urlaub-Feuhrer who gave them good barracking at the top of her voice without ever needing to pause and draw breath.
Nobody could jib at the evening entertainment, a beer terrace complete with a (fake) Bavarian band.
The lady wife had a bit too much to drink on the beer terrace, and the results are all too plain to see in her photographic efforts. The photo on the left, for example, shows the main subject illuminated in the background, cunningly given some perspective by the artful insertion of a chair in the left foreground.
The final verdict? If you have a family to entertain, then Huis Ten Bosch is an excellent choice for a holiday! Plenty to keep people entertained, a pleasant and actually quite tranquil environment, despite the crowds. We might well go back for more fake fun next year!