Are we turning Japanese?

Tasked with listing Thailand’s top 10 cultural destinations, the Culture Ministry resorted to a Japanese-style theme park.

The ministry’s list of the country’s top-10 cultural must-see sites has drawn ridicule online for its inclusion of Chiang Mai’s Hinoki Land, a six-month-old replica of a tourist spot in Japan, which sits alongside destinations ranging from a botanical garden to an ancient city.

“Hinoki Land is an outstanding cultural place with creative architecture which is made of the aromatic Japanese cypress, known as hinoki wood, and decorated with red lanterns,” deputy director of the Culture Ministry’s Cultural Promotion Office, Chaiyapon Sukieam, is reported as saying by The Nation.

Also included on the list are kitsch Thai destinations such as Bangkok’s 2,000-seat theater Siam Niramit, Phuket’s extravagant cultural theme park Phuket Fantasea, and Pattaya’s botanical garden with added dinosaurs, Suan Nongnooch.

The remaining entries are Chiang Rai’s Doi Tung; Suphanburi’s Buffalo Village; Nakhon Ratchasima’s Jim Thompson Farm; Nakhon Pathom’s Woodland Muangmai; and Samut Prakan Ancient City.

The list’s selection criteria don’t really clear things up. Apparently, the place must have a permanent location and function as a dynamic cultural center; be run by the government, private sector, an institution, a non-profit foundation or community; play a role as a learning center for the general public. In addition, its activities should feature cooperation between the government, private sectors and the community; its services should be open to children and young people, as well as the general public; and it must be popular among Thais and foreign tourists.

The announcement has stirred debate up north. Bangkok Post reports that officials from Chiang Mai's Doi Saket district are threatening to file a suit with the Administrative Court to have Hinoki Land removed from the list.

Was the announcement a late April Fool’s Joke? Are we turning Japanese? Was it just a ploy to keep Thai tourists spending their hard-earned at home rather than on another Shibuya shopping trip? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.