Quaint Canadian village replica, rural Japan
Replica of a charming Canadian village with colorful historical buildings lining a quaint street, nestled in rural Japan.

Nostalgia for Canada at Hokkaido

Welcome to a Canadian ghost town in the heart of Hokkaido. Formerly a theme park reproducing the fictional village of Avonlea, Anne of Green Gables has long gone.

Canadian World
Canadian World

Canadian World park history and development

Canadian World was originally a theme park based on Anne of Green Gables by Canadian novelist Lucy Maud Montgomery. The founders were so inspired by the idyllic setting of Prince Edward Island’s small seaside town that they made a model in Ashibetsu, Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands.

Other parts of Canada are also represented, but the highlight is the almost identical replica of the village of Avonlea. Life-size Victorian houses, Kensington Station, Orwell School … and of course Anne’s farm with its green gables!

Canadian World
Canadian World

Everything is faithfully modelled on Montgomery’s descriptions. Visitors can take selfies with the park actors who play the roles of main characters like Anne and her “bosom friend” Diana.

Canadian World
Canadian World

The park reached its peak in the mid-1990s, attracting nearly 8,000 visitors a day. In 1997 the park went bankrupt as a consequence of the Asian economic crisis. The municipality of Ashibetsu took over the premises in the hope of boosting the town attractions.

Everything remains as it was; the park is free to access and maintenance carried out by volunteers. But the interiors of the buildings are no longer open to the public and there are no more activities in what has become a Canadian ghost town.

Japanese fascination with Anne

Anne of Green Gables is a national heroine in Japan. Every year, some 3,500 tourists visit Prince Edward Island (the real one!) making Japan one of the main sources of tourism on this small island with a population of 150,000.

The Japanese passion for Anne begins during the Second World War. A Canadian missionary gave her student Hanako Muraoka a copy of the book, which was secretly translated during the war and published in 1952. Encouraged by the Americans, the book is widely published and distributed in libraries managed by the US State Department.

The story of this spirited and outgoing orphan would have been part of the American plan for rapid democratization of Japan. Liberal propaganda to encourage women to free themselves from their traditional Japanese roles.

But Anne wasn’t content to be a Western cultural import. She became an integral part of Japanese culture, interpreted and reinterpreted by artists, writers, mangakas (cartoonists).

Canadian World
Canadian World

Most Japanese people will tell you that they know her because they saw her on television. In 1979, Nippon Animation Co. released a series of 50 episodes by none other than Japan’s preeminent animator and director Hayao Mizayaki.

Anne Shirley, the book’s main character, has become a pop icon in Japan. Schools named after her teach children to speak with the local accent of Prince Edward Island. In Okayama, the “Green Gables Schoolhouse” even offered young Japanese women the chance to learn to behave like the fictional heroine of Green Gables.

And for more awesome content about Japan, follow Jordy Meow on Instagram ! 🎵