While it might be common to hear of Japanese characters gaining immense popularity far from the shores of Japan – Hello Kitty, Pokemon, just to name a few – there is one Finnish character that has gained almost equivalent popularity in Japan. Moomin, a creature that would baffle anyone first looking at it as to what exactly it is, won over many hearts in Japan in the 1990's when its animation series titled “Tales From Moominvalley” was released. Originally published in Finland, Moomins are a family of white, large, oddly-shaped creatures resembling hippopotamuses. The picture books and television series depict the adventures of these creatures in Moominvalley. The popularity of this character has earned it a worldwide franchise, sprouting films, theme parks, and all kinds of memorabilia. News of a Moomin-themed amusement park in Saitama set to open in 2017 has been released in 2015, to the delight of Moomin fans in Japan.
With its popularity, it is expected that there would be a Moomin themed café. In Japan, the limited three Moomin Cafés has made it a given that the cafés are almost always crowded no matter what time you visit. Located at Tokyo Dome City, Tokyo Skytree as well as Fukuoka, each of these Moomin Cafés is quaintly decorated to recreate the sense of the quiet Moominvalley from which these characters came from. Each Moomin Café offers a slightly different menu, though in each café you are bound to see either food served in the shape of a Moomin character, be it rice, waffles, or biscuits. More information on the cafes can be found here.
If you find the Moomin Cafés to be a little out of the way, Moomin Stands offering a slightly different menu are dotted across Japan. Unlike the Moomin Cafés which are more restaurant-like, offering spaces for people to enter and sit for a proper set meal or main course (possibly with a Moomin seated across you), the Moomin Stands function more like takeout counters. As such, only drinks and waffles are available for sale.
Moomin Cafe in Tokyo.
Photo: Ville Misaki on Flickr
For those who have tried tapioca pearls (otherwise known as “bubble tea”) in countries such as Taiwan or Singapore, the drinks offered at Moomin Stands would seem familiar at first sight. Named “Nyoro Nyoro”, the name likely plays on Japanese onomatopoeia, describing the wiggling sensation of sucking these tapioca pearls up a straw. These “nyoro nyoro” come in berry or caramel flavors and the straw that accompanies the drink is absolutely adorable and Moomin themed as well. Flavors range from the rather typical “Green Tea Milk” to slightly strange flavors like “Soy Salt Caramel”. Prices vary from 320 yen to 420 yen per drink. You can request for double the amount of “nyoro nyoro” at additional cost.
Moomin Stand Menu Card.
Apart from drinks, Moomin shaped waffles are also available. The cream in each waffle is not overwhelmingly greasy, but light on the palette and an excellent match with the fruit topping inside. Each waffle is priced at 360 yen, making for an affordable and delicious afternoon snack.
There are a total of eight Moomin Stands throughout Japan, located at places such as Kichijoji, Ikebukuro, Universal Studios in Osaka as well as in Nagoya. More information on Moomin Stands can be found here.
Both the Moomin Cafés and Moomin Stands have a small corner dedicated to the sale of memorabilia.
Seeing how there is even an Official Moomin Fanclub of Japan, the popularity of this character cannot possibly be missed. Do head down to one of the Moomin Cafés or Moomin Stands to catch a glimpse of this endearing character!