Twenty weeks in to what has been quite a rough pregnancy so far, the other day my husband and I decided to go on a little day out in Kyoto. I understand why they refer to “confinement” during pregnancy because I’ve hardly been over the doorstep all summer, so this little outing was a particular treat. And what a treat indeed! Despite living in Kyoto prefecture for ten years, I don’t recall ever having had an opportunity to visit the city of Kameoka. Now, thanks to my time in Nagoya and having learned to drive at last (although hubby is doing most of the driving recently as it’s become increasingly difficult for me with my growing tummy), I have a car and that gives me more of a chance to explore outside of Kyoto city. So yesterday we went to Kameoka. The reason: I had heard of a little place called Dreamton, a British village in the heart of Kyoto countryside. Curiosity sufficiently piqued, I decided I had to go and explore.
Dreamton is one of the most intriguing places I’ve been to in Japan. I’ve been to places like Meiji-mura in Gifu, which is home to several important historical buildings from the Meiji era, and I’ve visited some of Japan’s other themed visitor facilities, of which there are plenty. The former British consulate building in Hakodate, which is now a wonderful museum, does a fabulous afternoon tea set and I have fond memories of my visit there. The Glover Gardens complex in Nagasaki, another historical remnant of British settlement in Japan is also an incredible place that allows visitors to get a sense of what life was like for British settlers in Japan in those early days of contact. Dreamton, however, is not like these places of historical interest at all. Dreamton is the complete creation of a Japanese Anglophile, and it is this point that makes it so fascinating. According to the staff there, it was established 5-6 years ago. The buildings are made to look like very old buildings that you would find in a typical village somewhere in the UK, and it comes across as very authentic-looking indeed.
Dreamton reminded me of myself as a teenager and the passion I developed for Japan, albeit on a much, much grander and larger scale. As a teenager, I once transformed my bedroom into my image of a Japanese home. It had hand-made, makeshift tatami mats and sliding doors. It was decorated with pictures of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. I had tea ceremony utensils, chopsticks and rice bowls, and I slept on a kind of makeshift futon. I was very proud of my creation and I loved it! However, it was naturally quite different to the real thing. Dreamton is impressively authentic looking. Upon entering the grounds, it feels just like you’ve stepped into a small English village. It was the small details that stood out the most to give it it’s authentic feel. As I entered the first small shop to go through into the main complex, the tinkling sound of the old bell on the top corner of the door to let the shop keeper know that a customer had arrived felt so familiar. I was greeted by an elderly gentleman dressed in a white shirt, dark trousers and a waistcoat wearing glasses and an old top hat with slightly frayed edges. The sight of him and the surroundings of British antiques and other goods for sale really made me feel like I’d travelled instantaneously to a British countryside shop. But more than the sights, it was the smell; it even smelled like a small country shop somewhere in England. The feeling of the rough stone floor under my feet too, gave me that sense that I was no longer in Japan.
Below is a picture of the entrance to the shop where you place your order for the restaurant in advance:
Despite the slight difficulty in access, the place being deep in the mountains of Kameoka, it was quite crowded with visitors. We spotted number plates from Kyoto, Osaka and even Fukui in the car park. We had a 10-15 minute wait before we could be seated in the restaurant for lunch and it was late too; we didn’t get there until 3pm in the afternoon. Many of the other customers were there for the cream tea set (1,250 yen) or the afternoon tea set (2,100 yen), but my husband and I had not had time for lunch yet so we tried the fish and chips (1,900 yen per meal), which also comes with a cup of tea. I was very pleasantly surprised when my plate arrived and on it I saw mushy peas! I think it was my first time to eat mushy peas in Japan, and very tasty they were too. The chips were like regular fries you can get in many places in Japan, but the fish was very good, very like you would get in a chip shop in the UK. It was delicious. And the tea! I enjoyed that so much I had to order another pot. One small cup was just not enough. The food was very filling and I struggled to eat all of it, which felt authentic too. It’s not often that I can eat a whole portion of fish and chips by myself in the UK. Even the utensils were authentic. We were given proper old-school style fish knives with the curved tip at the end and a cream-coloured handle. These were Sheffield-made knives. The lady who served us our meal was dressed like a maid. She looked like she had come straight from the set of filming in the Downton Abbey series. All of the staff had fabulous costumes and the service was truly wonderful. The staff took time to kindly make sure we were comfortable, answer our questions, and even give us a bit of background information on the place.
Here’s a video I found on YouTube showing some of the scenes of Dreamton:
Here’s another YouTube video with commentary in Japanese and an interview with the founder, Haruyama Mayumi aka Marie:
Some more pictures from my own visit:
The place has a shop where you can buy clothes designed by the founder, particularly dresses in typical British style florals and tartan styles. There is an antiques shop where you can find all kinds of things. I was reminded of some of the things my grandparents used to have their house when they were alive.
Aside from the shops and restaurant/tea room, Dreamton also provides wedding services and you can stay overnight in the Bed and Breakfast hotel.
What a great place to observe the connection between Britain and Japan alive and well. It was really a great day out, and I’m looking forward to going again. I highly recommend it. The website (mostly in Japanese) is here: http://dreamton.co.jp/ Do check it out if you get a chance. I’m looking forward to visiting in May when apparently the place is awash with the colours of roses. I was told it was lovely in winter too when there’s snow fall and smoke coming from the chimneys. I can’t wait for my next visit!