Stung by criticism, ministry to review selection of Hinoki Land as cultural destination

CHIANG MAI, Thailand (The Nation) - The Culture Ministry said yesterday it would review the inclusion of a Japanese-inspired theme park, Hinoki Land, as one of the country’s best cultural destinations after being slammed by netizens for the choice.

The ministry had named Hinoki Land in Chaiya Prakan district, Chiang Mai province, as one of the Kingdom’s top 10 cultural destinations. 
Critics on social media pointed out that Hinoki Land merely copied a Japanese tourist spot of the same name. “The Cultural Promotion Office will collect the comments from social media and the press on the ministry’s selection and present to the board of committees to review our selection of Hinoki Land,” the Culture Ministry’s deputy director of Cultural Promotion Office, Chaiyapon Sukieam, said in a press release. He added that the Cultural Promotion Office in Bangkok had conducted the survey that assigned provincial culture offices and local cultural networks throughout the Kingdom to propose names for the list. The names were to be finally approved by the board of committees, who are cultural experts. 
“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. The park is a learning centre where visitors can learn about Japanese culture, instead of flying to Japan. The park is also generating income for the local community and nearby districts,” he said, justifying the choice.
The ministry has six criteria: 
The place must have a permanent location and firm structure. It should function as a creative cultural centre that can be adjusted to match the dynamic of modern culture; the place can be run by the government, private sector, an institution, a non-profit foundation or community; the place plays a role as a learning centre on creative culture for the general public and its management serves the creative economy; the activities should integrate cooperation with the government and private sectors and the community; the place should open its services to children, youth and the general public to provide cultural knowledge; the place must be popular among Thais and foreign tourists.
Besides Hinoki Land, the other places in the ministry list are: Chiang Rai’s Doi Tung, Jim Thompson Farm in Nakhon Ratchasima province, Nong Nooch Tropical Garden in Chon Buri, Buffalo Village in Suphan Buri, Woodland Muangmai in Nakhon Pathom province, Ancient City in Samut Prakan province, the Siam Niramit theatre in Bangkok and the Phuket Fantasy theatre.
Meanwhile, the owner of Hinoki Land, Anirut Jeungsutprasoet, said he was also surprised by its inclusion in the list. “I’m glad that the Culture Ministry selected my theme park as one of the top 10 places you must visit. But I’m also surprised at the selection, as no one from the ministry contacted us in relation to the survey, or visited, or sought any information,” Anirut, who spent almost two decades in Japan, told The Nation.
“I’m sorry if the ministry’s nomination hurt the feelings of the public. I just want to state that I was not involved in the selection, and it was all done by the ministry,” he added.

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