If I was only living in Japan, I could have visited Holland, Italy, and Spain by walking across the street. Responding to a desire for citizens to taste different cultures, Japan has set up massive cultural theme parks that attempt to replicate tourist attractions, food, and the landscape of certain European countries. I’m a fan: people who really care and are blessed to have the shrinking but still sizable resources needed to travel will visit Italy in-person, but for people who wouldn’t otherwise get a sample, now they have that option.
Skillfully inverting a few essential principles of travel, the parks offer a stress-free and decidedly postmodern way of seeing the world — a sort of abridged Grand Tour for the fast-food generation
“People want to taste different cultures,” says Akira Fujiwara, a representative of the Italian Village in Nagoya. “But they don’t necessarily have the time, or the money to go abroad. This place is a convenient way for people to get a taste of something different.”
Specializing in the importation of culture, the parks package and present foreign countries like the Netherlands or Spain as a plethora of architectural reproductions, educational attractions, shops and restaurants, with the odd roller coaster or two thrown in for good measure. The most popular attraction at the Italian Village, for instance, is the gondola ride. The boats (imported from Italy) are manned by a youthful crew of Italian boatmen. As they steer passengers along the faux Venetian canals, they smile for the cameras, shouting ‘Buon giorno!’ at irregular intervals.