Russia’s vanishing village in Japan


TOKYO (majirox news) — Lying abandoned and forgotten near Niigata is the Niigata Russian village. Scattered throughout Japan are various “villages,” which are exact replicas of foreign locations — or, at least, recreations of what the Japanese think foreign cities look like — without the inconvenience of having real foreigners going about their daily activities there.

The best known of these replica villages is the “Huis Ten Bosch” in Nagasaki Prefecture. Named after the palace of Queen Beatrix in The Hague, the capital of the Netherlands, the village is a duplicate of a small Dutch city, almost in its entirety, complete with canals, houses and public buildings. Indeed, it is large enough that a casual visitor might be convinced that he has been teleported to the Dutch homeland. After opening amid much fanfare in 1996, and after having enjoyed several profitable years the “Huis Ten Bosch” project went bankrupt in 2003.

Several other such “villages” have been much more successful, such as “Spain Mura” near Nagoya, and “Disney Sea World” in Tokyo, a near-perfect replica of Portobello in Italy.

Perhaps the “Niigata Russian Village” served as the inspiration for “Huis Ten Bosch.” Covering many hectares, the former included a replica of the Suzdal Cathedral, a hotel modeled on the former palace of Catherine the Great (known as the Hermitage) that is now one of the most famous art museums in the world. The village at Niigata boasted several museums, restaurants, circuses, and an entire wooden village complete with Russian gingerbread houses.

Lurking in the museum was a life-sized model of a Mastodon. To this day, a genuine Mastodon skeleton still dangles, forgotten, from the rafters.

The “Niigata Russian Village” opened for business in 1993, and collapsed in 2003 when its financing was withdrawn by a local bank. Located several kilometers away from the nearest railway and accessible only by car, the village has been completely forgotten by everyone but the local residents.

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One Response to Russia’s vanishing village in Japan

  1. jim colligan on 11/30/2011 at 3:35 am

    Fascinating in its rundown condition. I’m aware of Russia’s long ago entry into Japan (vg., the Orthodox Church in Hakodate) and more recent visits by Russian seamen off cargo ships to the delight of merchants in northern Japanese ports. But despite many years in Japan I am unaware of the reported Russian villages, apparently a relatively recent tourism ploy which wasn’t successful. Thanks for the information and the photos.

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