Tokyo Disney Resort infamously cannot be found within Tokyo’s metropolitan area, but rather in the neighboring prefecture of Chiba, right across the Kyuedo River. It’s not an uncommon practice in Chiba, especially in the areas along the coastline of Tokyo Bay, since the name of Tokyo attracts more visitors.
Much in the same way, Tokyo German Village, or Doitsumura, is a bit of a misnomer. This German-themed “amusement park” is located in the Chiba city of Sodegaura, roughly two hours away from central Tokyo. To add to the weirdness, it’s neither a village nor does it focus solely on German culture—it’s not even really an amusement park.
Originally, Tokyo German Village was meant to be a golf course, one of the many in the area, but the collapse of the mid-1980s bubble economy caused a halt in the project. After a trip to Germany, the founder of the park noticed that the German countryside was somewhat similar to the hills in Sodegaura, which inspired the concept.
The park opened in 2001, a few years after the completion of the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line. It wasn’t exactly an immediate success. The park had a few kiddie rides, as well as miniature golf courses and a petting zoo, and its centerpiece was a ferris wheel; nothing fancy. The rest of the place was a “country farm” area, consisting of hills and lawns carpeted with flowers.
It saw a rapid rise in the number of visitors starting from 2006, when it launched its “winter illumination” program, the Japanese equivalent of Christmas lights. Millions of LED lights decorating the hills, the illumination programs propelled Tokyo German Village’s popularity over the years despite German visitors’ criticism that they are nothing alike the Christmas lights back home. It even went on to theme the 2018 illumination event after Chinese lantern festivals, using a song titled U.S.A.
Know Before You Go
The best way to see the Winter Illuminations light displays is from the top of the ferris wheel.