Perfect Place for a Little Prince

by Jun Igarashi
Perfect Place for a Little PrinceNew highway theme park honors French author’s famous book

Just 90 minutes’ drive from the heart of Tokyo, you could feel like you were lost in France. In June, the Yorii rest stop on the Kanetsu Expressway, in Saitama, became Aire du Petit Prince a Yorii—the world’s first highway rest stop themed on the famous French novella The Little Prince, which sold 80 million copies; was adapted for stage, screen and opera, and was translated into 180 languages.

Inside, restaurant Le Petit Prince serves home cuisine from the south of France prepared by a former instructor of Le Cordon Bleu. Food stalls, shop, garden, restrooms, and even road signs and garbage bins are all reproduced from Provence, in the south of France—long-time home of the book’s author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who was stranded in the Sahara desert for four days after surviving a plane crash in 1935 and was never seen again after going missing on a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean in 1944.

This charming little place is handy for Tokyoites to stop at if visiting Karuizawa, Niigata Prefecture, but is well worth a trip on its own. A statue of the Little Prince greets you at the entrance. Then you can take a relaxing moment with coffee and freshly baked bread at the French cafe. A French home-cuisine buffet is served at the restaurant where you can enjoy as much food as you like for just ¥1,280, or choose from the regular menu. Little Prince souvenirs and books are sold at the shop and, naturally, a smoking area is in the garden that features blooming flowers and other elements from the book’s story.

There’s also a Musse du Petit Prince de saint in Hakone, Kanagawa. It was established in 1999 as part of Saint-Exupéry’s 100th anniversary. The museum re-enacts a French village, with exhibitions, theater, garden, chapel, restaurant, café and shop. Upon entry, seasonal flowers welcome guests throughout the year in the exquisite garden created by famous designer Keiko Yoshiya. The indoor museum showcases Saint-Exupéry’s interesting life through his works, photographs, letters and other personal items.

For regional fans of the real France, the opening of the Saitama Little Prince coincided with Marubeni Corporation’s announcing direct, chartered flights to Paris from local airports in Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kyushu, Sendai and Sapporo.

Aire du Petit Prince a Yorii

Musse du Petit Prince de saint