KAMEOKA, Kyoto -- After walking up a winding mountain road here, an English-style building appeared on the hillside. Come closer, and there is a shop window decorated with a Union Jack. This is Dreamton Village, a little slice of Britain's Cotswolds in western Japan, and I strode inside ready to soak in the nostalgic southern English atmosphere.
It may only be about an hour and a half by train or car from the Osaka city center, but I felt truly transported to that far-off island. Upon entering the village restaurant, I was greeted by Maya, an employee dressed in an authentic English maid's uniform. All the employees have English-style names.
Mayumi Haruyama, the 60-year-old chairwoman of Dreamton operator Yumemi Factory, is the village "godmother" and goes by Marrie. She was the only daughter of a weaver in Kyoto's Nishijin area, and has a strong desire to "preserve the good old days."
There is a row of buildings made of honey-colored limestone that resemble Cotswolds houses on the about 1-hectare site. The interior walls give a sense of the past with their "not-so-perfect" hand-painted look.
You can also enjoy the U.K. with your taste buds. I ordered a meal at the entrance, and went on to the restaurant Pont-Oak, decorated with antiques. I had fish and chips, and I could smell the faint aroma of the beer in the crispy batter, fried in the old British way.
The restaurant's scones are based on a recipe that Marrie found in an old English book, and the secret ingredient is yogurt. They are moist and delicious. You can feel England with all five senses.
There are five lodging buildings that can be rented out individually, making it possible to stay in the village all day long. Mobile phone reception in the village is spotty, and there is Wi-Fi in the restaurant, but not in the accommodation buildings. So you can relax and enjoy your stay without worrying about smartphone notifications.
There is a church at the back of the village where weddings can be held. There is also a pub in the accommodation area where you can throw the post-ceremony bash.
"There are fields at the foot of the mountain, and villages a little further up the mountain. Kameoka, a city of mist, resembles the English countryside," Marrie said.
Around 2009, Marrie was approached by the city government and other officials to see if she could do something with a patch of unused land. It was then that she remembered the Cotswolds, which she had visited before starting her company. She spotted cute old buildings that looked like something out of an old magazine. There, grandmothers were still living as in days past. "I felt like I was on a mission to share the real thing," she recalled. And this led to Dreamton Village.
If an employee has never been to the U.K., Marrie sends them there to experience it in the flesh. The food and exhibits are based on her own experiences, and she is thoroughly committed to the "real Britain."
"Dreamton" was coined by combining the word "dream" and the suffix "-ton." As a place where dreams begin, Marrie said, "I want to make Kyoto livelier, starting with the area around the city, to preserve the good old days of Kyoto."
Dreamton Village is in the Nishibetsuincho-Yunohara district of Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture. The restaurant, Pont-Oak, is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Closed irregularly. For inquiries, please call 0771-27-3004 (in Japanese).
The Cotswolds is a hilly area about 200 kilometers northwest of London. It means "hill with a sheepfold," and flourished as a wool industry center from the 13th to 18th centuries.
(Japanese original by Reiko Noguchi, Osaka Regional News Department)