I love Moomins. There’s a quality to Tove Jansson’s creations that I find incredibly soothing and relaxing – yes, I was slightly terrified of the cartoon series as a child (who wasn’t?!), but I’ve been able to put that behind me, and then some. It’s almost impossible not to find Moomins virtually everywhere you look in Japan, and the country has had a long-term love affair with Moomintroll, Moominmama, Moominpapa and their friends and neighbours. Japan produced animated series, comic books and was visited by Jansson herself. The Moomin licensing business is particularly healthy, with Moomins popping up everywhere from Skytree to Village Vanguard.
It’s also just been announced that a new animated Moomin series is on the table, and what with the new park in Saitama opening next year (perhaps they’d like a rather enthusiastic guide?), there’s never been a better time to take a trip with the Moomin family.
(I took these photos on an afternoon walk between Koenji and Asagaya – I hope my neighbours are used to me by now.)
If, like me, you can’t get enough of Snufkin’s travelling tales, the Hemulen’s collections and the raw gutsiness of Little My, then, aside from Finland, Tokyo is the place for you and your magical top hat.
I’m not sure who mistook a Moomin cafe for an “anti-loneliness cafe” (much eyerolling from this Moomin fan), but it’s certainly true that you can dine with Moominpapa himself while enjoying some Finnish cuisine and hattifattener-shaped pasta. Some of the better theme cafes in my totally biased opinion, and not just because of the all-you-can-eat bread at lunchtime – look out for the seasonal specials that come with free items for you to take home.
Tokyo Dome City LaQua – My favourite of the two Moomin cafes, it’s larger than the Skytree cafe but can still get very busy at weekends and lunchtimes. Many of the shops at Tokyo Dome’s shopping centre have Moomin merchandise to add to the experience.
Tokyo Skytree Town Solamachi – The smaller cafe, but still very cute. I recommend it if you’re heading to Skytree anyway, and can be combined with a trip to the Peikko Antenna shop (see below).
Kichijoji Moomin stand – Here you can enjoy drinks with “hattifattener seeds”, as it’s a stand there’s no seating. (Incidentally, hattifatteners are called nyoro-nyoro in Japanese, which is also the onomatopoeic word used for the slithering of snakes.)
Official Moomin shops:
There are a few official Moomin shops in Tokyo, and they’re exactly as overwhelmingly full of all things Moomin as you could hope for. I’ve only visited a couple, but you could combine a trip to hip Jiyugaoka with a walk to Futakotamagawa, or visit the mini shop at Tokyo station as a Friday commute treat, for example.
Other places to find Moomins:
The Moomins have escaped Moominvalley and have rather taken over Tokyo. I’m not complaining. There’s plenty of places to discover must-have Moomin goods, from figurines and kids toys to kitchen items and chocolate biscuits. If you simply have to have a set of Moominhouse bath towels or an essential oil diffuser with Little My, then you’re in luck.
Kiddyland Harajuku – Moomins are currently on the second floor. Brave the aisles of screaming children and a Snufkin jigsaw puzzle, among other things, may be your reward.
Kinokuniya – Everyone needs Moomin books and of course the original comic strips. Tove Jansson’s non-Moomin adult novels are also utterly gorgeous.
Loft – As well as diaries and some stationery, Moomins can usually be found in the character goods section of most Loft stores.
Nakano Broadway – A heaven of collectibles, an afternoon spent combing through the stores and cases will quite often turn up some interesting merchandise. How about Japanese Moomin manga?
Peikko Antenna shop – Mid-way between Kinshicho and Ryogoku, this tiny shop stuffed to the brim with Moomins was doing brisk business even on the rainy day I popped in. Badges and hand towels are perfect for gifts, and those with the cash can splash out on a miniature 18K gold Moomin necklace. Check out the web-shop too!
Tokyo Dome City – As well as the Moomin cafe, the Tokyo Dome City shopping centre knows its market and has a few stores for the Moomin fans. The Kiitos character shop has a good range, and Moomins often pop up in the Loft and Village Vanguard chains too.
Uniqlo – With a couple of collaborations a year, Uniqlo helps you literally cover yourself in Moomins – blankets, t-shirts, pyjamas, room wear and more.
Yahoo Auctions – If you’re able to use Yahoo Auctions (or a bidding service), then this is a great place to find rare items and older collaborations with brands and shops such as Felissimo, Anna Sui, Graniph, and Marble Sud.
Village Vanguard – Where there’s a Village Vanguard, there’s a Moomin (or two, or three…). Some of the Moomin corners take a little ingenuity to find, and it’s also easy to get distracted by all the other Gudetama, Doreamon and magical girl goodies.
Last but by no means least, those wishing to take a leaf out of Snufkin’s book and go on an adventure should head to Akebono Kodomo no Mori Koen in Saitama, a free park with some charming buildings straight from the real Moominvalley, plus a little gift shop. Should a Moomintroll happen to holiday with you in Tokyo, after taking them to every pancake restaurant, this little park would be top of the list.
I’ve stuck to the Moomins I know are available in Tokyo, but needless to say there are plenty more out there in other cities around Japan as well as more to find in Tokyo too. If you feel your favourite piece of Moominvalley in Tokyo is missing from this list, then please do get in touch as soon as possible (so I can go there too!).
Oh, and who else is addicted to the Welcome to Moomin Valley game?
(As a side-note, there’s a “stag party bar” in Ueno called Moomin Valley, which specialises in men who have a Moomin-like physical appearance! Now you know.)