Did you know that there’s a town called Sweden Hills in Japan? It’s a mini-version of Sweden with traditional houses on the island of Hokkaido. The residents even celebrate midsummer, have crayfish parties and follow Swedish traditions.
The town is located in Tōbetsu, about 30 kilometers from Sapporo, which is the largest city on Hokkaido. If you didn’t know that you were actually in Japan, you could mistake yourself and think that you’ve ended up in Sweden.
The wooden houses are painted in Falu red, which is the most typical color on traditional houses in Sweden. Details such as steps, doors, window carves, etc are almost always pained in white.
It’s truly remarkably similar to idyllic village towns in Sweden in the province of Dalarna. But it’s not only the houses that are similar in Sweden Hills but also nature itself. The trees and landscapes are very similar as well.
The history of Sweden Hills
The idea to build a Swedish-styled town came to be after a Swedish ambassador visited the area. He noted that the climate and surroundings were very much like Sweden.
Shortly after his visit, the work of creating Sweden Hills (スウェーデンヒルズ Suēden Hiruzu) was started and since then over 1000 inhabitants have moved here. The planning of the town started in 1979 and the construction started in 1984.
About 1/3 of the homes are vacation homes, and 2/3 are residential homes with permanent residents. The holiday homes in Sweden Hills can be rented for a period of 2 weeks and up to 2 months.
The price for a 2-week rental is 128,750 Yen during the summer and 143,750 Yen in the winter. Renting a longer period gives a better rate per night and the monthly rental is currently set to 170,000 Yen in the summer and 190,000 Yen in the winter.
The red wooden houses were built in Leksand in Sweden by a Japanese company and were later on shipped to Japan. Today, there are over 420 houses with the iconic design of Swedish houses.
30 years later, Sweden Hills has become an idyllic place where the locals have embraced both the language and Swedish traditions. The local residents enjoy having a Fika, celebrating midsummer, Lucia and crayfish parties. Nearby, there is also a golf club.
People can also buy handicrafts and glasswork from Sweden at the Swedish Center Foundation, which is located in the town center.
Furthermore, the town has been named as a sister town to Leksand in Sweden. Visitors are also reminded that this is not a tourist destination. It’s a residential area where people are living, so please be mindful and respect the privacy of the residents when visiting.
The concept on the website and the main selling-point for residents to move here is to get the perfect quality of life.
Most people who’re living in the town are retired who moved away from big cities to settle down in a quiet area. When the resident Maki Tago saw the town for the first time, he thought it was a bit odd to see that all houses were identical.
He said that it looked like Disneyland and somewhat artificial since this design concept isn’t very common in Japan. In the video below, you can go on a quick ride through one of the addresses in Sweden Hills.
My thoughts about Sweden Hills in Japan
As a Swede, I find it very fascinating that they have created a mini-version of Sweden in northern Japan. In some ways, this place is even more Swedish than Sweden itself and the residents take traditions seriously.
At Midsummer, you’ll see a traditional maypole and the locals will be wearing folk costumes. Even in Sweden, only a few places still put this much effort into Midsummer celebrations. You’re likely to see more people wear folk costumes here than in many Swedish cities.
The whole look and feel of the town remind me of a small town in the Swedish province of Dalarna. This combined with Japanese mentality, culture, and integrity makes a very interesting combination that I like a lot.
What do you think about Sweden Hills in Japan? Leave a comment below!