Santa House, Santa Hills, Tochigi – December 2019
For the last few years I have tried unsuccessfully to book a coveted spot in the Santa House in Santa Hills, Tochigi Prefecture. I have been determined, since discovering it while researching Santastic Tochigi in 2015, to stay in the Santa House at least one Christmas. And every year I would try to book it within days of reservations opening.
In January of 2019 I finally remembered to book it that first week in January when reservations were opened. Already it was booked up for Christmas day itself, but as my husband, like most Japanese, works on Christmas day, this was not an issue. The date we wanted was in early December and that was still available. I promptly booked it and prepaid the bill, as per the requirement, and crossed my fingers that nothing would happen nearer the time to interfere with this dream, obsession, of mine.
As it turned out, there was a slight hitch in that my youngest child’s Christmas pageant was booked for the same day. But we worked around that. The minute her performance was over we left the hall and hit the road for the Santa Hills.
It is Christmas all year round in Santa Hills! It is a Christmas, specifically Santa, themed campsite with cabins in Nakagawa Town in the Nasu District of Tochigi. There are several Christmas statues and paraphernalia throughout the camp ground. All the cabins have Christmas names. There is an all year round Christmas shop Santa Zakka Market Very Merry. It has a small floor of Santa statues in every shape, size and pose. It could pass as a Santa Museum.
The campsite has been celebrating Christmas for 25 years, making it one of the longest running Christmas event locations in all of Japan. For many years it was one of only about a dozen places that marked Christmas at all. Furthermore, for the first twenty years it was one of only a handful of places you could meet Santa Claus. And then there is the Santa House, the only one of its kind that I know of in Japan…
The Santa House is a large two floor log cabin with:
- a large hall
- a living room
- kitchen cum dining room
- bench table, fits around 12 people
- rice cooker
- fully equipped with cooking tools
- full crockery set
- patio with patio seats and grill
- master bedroom with king sized bed and room for futons on the floor
- “elves” bedroom with a massive bed for four and a loft bed for two
- a mezzanine kids area with children’s Christmas books
- two parking spots (one is included in the price, the other is charged)
We arrived before check in time, which for the Santa House is quite late at 4 pm. All other accommodation has an earlier check in time, but as the house is a tourist attraction when it is not in use, it has the later check in time and also an earlier check out time of 10 am.
But by the time we checked in and, as first timers to Santa Hills, heard all about the cabin and campsite, and had a quick look around, it was already time to make our way to Santa’s house. We were all so excited with great anticipation, but getting in to look around for ourselves far exceeded all and any expectations.
- a working fireplace,
- a ten foot Christmas tree,
- a model Santa town,
- a working organ
- a reindeer rocking horse,
- a long slide between the elves’ bedroom and kid’s den,
- a real Santa sleigh in the dining room
- and a real life Santa that comes to visit in the month of December!!
Within the campsite itself there are also other things for the kids to enjoy such as:
- a two floor den with a loft, swing, slide and climbing
- an onsen bus – yep, a bath in a bus!
- a playing field
For people with dogs: Santa Hills is very dog friendly. They have several cabins with gardens for dogs and there is a dog run on the grounds too.
It was the stuff of dreams for the kids to stay in Santa’s house. Between the house itself and all the campsite had to offer, the kids had an absolute magical time. They didn’t want to leave and in fact we stayed long after our check out playing in the woods, on the hammocks and in the tree houses.
Even without Santa’s visit they were having the time of their lives, but Santa dropping off a (small) gift in person really made the trip extra special and memorable for them. He was a Japanese Santa, but he spoke Christmas English perfectly. Ironically, the fact that he could speak Japanese made my ten year old regain some of his dwindling belief.
Santa House Public Viewing
You don’t have to stay in the Santa House to have a peep at it. There is a free public viewing between noon and 4 pm on days that people aren’t staying in the house. You can also peruse the Christmas market, maybe even pick up some souvenirs as we did, in the reception area between 10 am and 8 pm. And they have night illumination during December.
Cafe and Gallery Komorebi
There is a cafe on the grounds too, Cafe + Gallery, Komorebi, for a light lunch or just a cup of coffee. It has a small gallery in it too. The cafe opens to the public from 10 am, but if you are staying at the campsite you can get breakfast there from 8 am. However, you need to book it (at the latest) when you check in.
I had known about 70% of what I shared on this post, before going to Santa Hills. But even at that I was pleasantly surprised by just how Christmassy the atmosphere is and how much the kids could embrace it. Even though it was minus temperatures at night, the campsite was in full use. Thanks to that there were dozens of kids and the resort just had a really familial, amicable, and relaxed atmosphere. A great place for a December family get away within reasonable distance of Saitama, Tokyo, Ibaraki and parts of Gunma.
Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas and happy holidays. I love this saying engraved on the plaque on the front of the Santa Claus house in Nakagawa and I wish it for one and all…
May the Spirit of Christmas remain with you always.
Santa House Information
|Address:||〒324-0502 Tochigi, Nasu District, Nakagawa, Miwa 967|
|Booking:||The campsite and other cabins can be booked online, but the Santa House needs to be booked on the phone. If you want to stay in the Santa House, cabins or even the campsite in December it is recommended you book the first week of January. Even the campsites book up quick for December.|
|Cost:||From 25,000 yen|
Santa Hills is best reached by car. There is no convenient public transport to the campsite. By car, there are a few interchanges on the Tohoku expressway you can use. The easiest is the Yaita interchange, which is a 30 to 40 minute drive to Santa Hills.
For other places to visit Santa in Tochigi and the Kanto plain please see the 2021 round up.