Britain? Great! and Some Words On Radiation

Britain? Great! and Some Words On Radiation

Japan and Britain have a lot in common: we’re both stubbornly individual island nations; we’re both polite to the point of self-sabotage; we like golf and whisky and beer; Americans make fun of our teeth… The list goes on and on.

The British envy a lot of Japanese culture. We’d kill for the rail network, and it’d be nice to get a new gadget the year it was actually made. Sushi restaurants are opening all the time and Japanese cars dominate the roads.

But for all that, there is not, to the best of my knowledge an UK equivalent of British Hills, one of the strangest places we’ve ever visited on this or any other trip.

When I say strange, I mean unsettling for Katy and I, because the moment we pulled into the drive we were in Britain. The buildings were British, the language was English, the currency was the pound – even the signposts to the car park were exactly as they are at home.

Being convincingly British is precisely the raison d’etre of British Hills, a hotel/educational facility/teleporting device. Before coming here, we’d worried that it might be the Japanese equivalent of Medieval Times, or some other horror show, but actually it’s something far more impressive. The Tudor House looks just like a Tudor House, the Oxford refectory looks just like an Oxford refectory, the pub looks like it would definitely serve its purpose… The whole place is flawlessly convincing.


None of that should be a surprise, though, because at extreme expense everything here was constructed in good old Britain first, disassembled, shipped, then reassembled in the Fukushima countryside. The site isn’t an accident, either: it was picked because the climate closely resembles that of the Scottish Highlands (for our money, there’s a bit too much sunshine here, though). A statue of William Shakespeare sits in the courtyard outside the obscenely manor house. It’s quite ironic that an image of the playwright should be here: the building’s interiors are heavily laden with English wooden oak. So much, in fact, that the reconstruction of The Globe Theatre had to be put on hold because British Hills had ordered so much of the wood for its own construction. Shakespeare had to wait, as he still does now, just outside the front door.

Unsurprisingly, such pedantic attention to detail wasn’t cheap: the total cost of making this fantasy a chunky great reality was said to be around £60 million or ¥7.1 billion.

Now kids, students and fans of all things British come from across the country to experience the whole thing. Perhaps the biggest compliment we can pay to it all is that if we let our minds wander for, even a minute, we genuinely forgot where we were. But then, munching a roast beef dinner, being served by native English-speakers and popping in for a shambolic game of snooker, you can perhaps understand.

Although there were no shortage of distractions at British Hills, I spent this afternoon worrying about my brother who currently lives in America. He is not American, not quite, but he essentially leads an average American life: he goes to college, he eats food, he drinks a bit. He is an exceptional person, but his lifestyle is pretty average.

And that’s what gave me such cause for concern because as an average American, he’s being exposed to around three millisierverts of radiation a year. Three! Here we are in Fukushima, sucking up a lowly 1.4 a year and my brother, running around the hills of North Carolina is being blasted by an unseen menace!

Worse, we went to America for six weeks this year – we ate American food and American fruit and who knows what that could have done to us? We’re 88km (54miles) from the doomed Fukushima plant and we’re far safer than when we were sucking down hotdogs in front of the White House. These are indeed unsettling times, so much so that we could scarcely enjoy the enormous bowl of Fukushima tempura soba, made with Fukushima vegetables, cooked in Fukushima water. “My poor brother!” I thought with buckwheat noodles slapping off my chin. “What a fate!”

Our time in Fukushima prefecture was made possible by:

Michi no Eki, a lovely little shop, grocer and restaurant that serves wonderful food and deserves a bit of better luck.

British Hills, which feels more authentic than large parts of the UK itself. The shoppe is full of British treats, the pub serves British ale, the restaurant fires out brilliant British food. It’s enough to make a person homesick, it really is.












そして最悪な事に、私達も今年アメリカで6週間過ごしているのだ。アメリカの料理を食べ、アメリカのフルーツを食べ、私達の体は大丈夫なのだろうか?私達は今福島第一原発から88km離れた場所にいるが、アメリカのホワイトハウスの前でホットドックを食べていたあの時よりずっと安全な場所にいるという事だ。多少動揺した時もあったが、そんな事は嘘のように福島で採れた野菜を使って、福島のお水で調理された福島の天ぷらそばを食べて楽しんでいるのだ。 あー、日本にいてよかった。




    October 4, 2011

    When my eldest son entered British Hill’s, too,
    “I was impressed.”
    When it was not Japan.
    And when tea was very delicious.

  2. anna
    October 5, 2011

    I love British Hills! But yeah it’s so weird, it’s out in the middle of nowhere Japan lol. But on special occasions they do all you can eat roast dinner/fish and chips! It’s amazing!

  3. jon Allen
    October 6, 2011

    Great work on the blog guys. As a Brit myself, this place sound great! must try and get there some time,

  4. Kavey
    October 9, 2011

    Gosh, who’d have thunk it? Reminds me of the stories one hears, mostly in fiction, about perfectly copied American towns, in Russia, to train infiltrators, during the cold war. Whether those existed or not, this is, of course, far less sinister, though no less odd, for all that. Looks like a much more convincing job than the awful British bits in Epcot Centre’s world pavilion…

  5. Geekoftheweek
    October 24, 2011

    I wish you the best of health, and open eyes (and a peaceful heart to go with them) very soon.

  6. Farmer
    November 5, 2011

    Thanks especially to Fukushima, and to other causes as well, the radiation level in much of America is worrying. That said, even if the level in the air where you were at that time was fairly low, new hotspots are being found on a regular basis, the cleanup of a huge amount of Japan is near impossible, and the government refuses to tell the truth clearly and in a way that would help people make responsible decisions for themselves and their families. Perhaps not the sort of comment you’re looking for on this project, but it’s the truth. Much of Japan is safe, but the policies of its government still put it at risk.