The genesis of German Village lies in the unexpected and extraordinary success of Tokyo Disneyland in the mid-eighties, which unfortunately came just as Japan was entering the asset-price bubble of the late eighties. As excess cash sloshed through the Japanese financial system, banks, companies and local governments ran out of productive places to invest it. The result was a series of spectacularly disastrous real estate deals. Overseas, these took the form of trophy acquisitions, such as when Mitsui Real Estate paid $610 million for the Exxon Building (with an asking price of $375 million) solely in order to get a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest price ever paid for a building.
In Japan itself, one of the most common boondoggles involved trying to duplicate the success of Disneyland by building a theme park. Thus, in Japan you can now visit Huis Ten Bosch (a mock-Dutch village) in Kyushu, Spain Island in Mie Prefecture, the Seagaia complex in Miyazaki (with its own artificial beach), and Mitsui Greenland, home of UltramanLand. Regrettably, the designers of these parks seem to have overlooked one of the principal reasons for Disneyland's success, which is that it lies on Tokyo Bay itself, right in the middle of the world's most populous metropolitan area. These other parks are all hopelessly remote from any center of population and are accordingly now either bankrupt or close to it. They have also proven a severe burden to the local governments that sponsored them (sometimes quite generously) in the eighties in the hope that they would attract tourism to declining rural areas.
I don't know anything about German Village's own specific financial history, but I can tell you that it could use a good coat of paint, and that it seems very dependent upon the tour buses who deposit their passengers in the parking lot for a two-hour-visit (including all-you-can-eat buffet and sausage-making lesson). Also, our four-year-old would really have liked it much better if we hadn't had to get on the bus exactly at 2 p.m., which is just when the "3-D Realistic Dinosaur World" show started. I wonder if the dinosaurs wore lederhosen?
For more pictures of German Village, click here! Next time, I'll have more pictures from our bus trip, including some from a genuine Scottish castle!