Day Trip Around the World at Tobu World Square
In the mountains of Tochigi prefecture there is a extraordinary treasure. Surrounded by lush greenery is a miniature world theme park where 100 of the world’s greatest structures and sites have been reconstructed at a scale of 1/25. It's like taking a journey around the world not in 80 days, but in just a few hours.
Tobu World Square is one of many great attractions in and around Nikko (others include Edo Wonderland, where visitors can dress like ninjas, and a recently closed American Western theme park). But there’s something special about Tobu World Square. With 42 famous landmarks classified as world heritage sites by UNESCO, it is really worth a visit. First of all, the task it sets itself (creating perfect scale models of history’s greatest architectural treasures) is such a strange and remarkable one—requiring buckets of effort and patience as well as an extraordinary eye for detail. What is more, the difficulty doesn’t end with completing a model—there is the upkeep to worry about, and of course the extra challenge of not just making a replica of something, but making it just as impressive as the original. The Eiffel Tower, for example, can be seen from almost everywhere (maybe because Japanese people love France?), and New York’s World Trade Center twin towers are still standing here.
A massive globe welcomes you to Tobu World Square, so it is impossible to miss the entrance. The park is divided into five areas, organized by region and time—starting with Modern Japan, followed by North America, then Europe, Asia, and finally Ancient Japan. Each area is sectioned off from the others by shrubbery, but there is no complete divide, creating some strange juxtapositions. The Empire State Building towers over the palace of Versailles, for example.
Each monument is also surrounded by little people for scale and amusement; sometimes they are engaging in some funny activities, so don’t just ignore them in favor of the buildings.
Photos of the attractions come out looking great, and at a quick glance can be mistaken for postcards. You could easily convince people that you took a trip to India, and nobody would realize that the Taj Mahal is actually smaller than you.
Tobu World Square is not a particularly big park, but it is still worthy of a day’s exploration. Take your time to stroll around, inspecting and admiring the particularities of each miniature landmark. It makes a great day trip from Tokyo for fans of architecture, history, and travel, and kids love it, too.
Getting there: Take the JR Spacia Special Express from Asakusa or Shinjuku station to Kinugawa Onsen (two hours). From there, the park is just a five-minute bus ride away. You can also access the park by car from Tokyo in about two hours. For detailed directions, click here.
Admission: Tickets are available at the entrance and cost ¥2,500 for adults and ¥1,200 for children on the day of your visit. Advance tickets are ¥2,200 for adults and ¥1,000 for children.
Open: Daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. (9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Dec. 1 to Mar. 19)