Review: why Tokyo's magical Moominvalley Park should be on your wish list

The land of the rising sun is full of surprises – including a new Moomin theme park. Writer Tamara Hinson was among the first through the gates to discover Tokyo’s new tribute to the much-loved Finnish trolls

Given I speak neither Japanese nor Finnish, I was slightly apprehensive about my visit to Moominvalley Park which opened on the outskirts of Tokyo in April. The fact I've actually made it to the park doesn't provide much reassurance. All I need to do is simply follow the throng of excited Japanese families making their way from Tokyo station to Hannō, on the city’s outskirts, disembarking when the train pulls into the Moomin-adorned station.


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After a short bus ride, I arrive at the park and realise my fears are totally unfounded. This is Japan, after all, so it's hardly surprising that the member of staff who greets me – and doesn't speak English – simply opens an app and asks me to talk into her mobile phone, which instantly translates my request.

Seconds later I'm clutching my ticket.

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Moomin mania

At first the outskirts of Tokyo might seem an odd choice for only the world's second (and Japan's first) Moomins theme park. But the hippo-like characters have been a huge hit here since the 1970s, after one of Tove Jansson’s stories was turned into a series for Japanese television.

It's easy to see why the owners of the Moomins empire chose this particular setting too: Moominvalley Park sits on the forested banks of a huge lake, and it's part of the enormous Metsä Village – a Finnish-themed attraction designed to give the Japanese a taster of Finland.


While other theme parks in or near the Japanese capital such as Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Joypolis are teeming with thrilling rides, Moominvalley Park certainly offers a more sedate experience. 

Here are 5 reasons why it's worth the effort:

1. For Moomin memorabilia

The first thing I notice is the Moominhouse, with its red, conical roof. The regular tours give Moomins fans the opportunity to admire the different rooms, including a kitchen filled with freshly-baked cookies and homemade jams, and, at the top of a spiral staircase, the characters' bedrooms. I can even purchase a miniature version of the house, albeit one filled with popcorn, at one of several merchandise stands.


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In fact, I’ve never seen so much memorabilia. The park apparently has one of the world’s largest collections of Moomins merchandise. There are at least eight different shops, each one selling merchandise associated with a particular character.

Moomin UV cream at the Moominvalley Park, TokyoCourtesy of Tamara Hinson

Alongside the standard fare - fluffy Snorkmaidens and Snufkin-adorned tableware - are products clearly created with the Japanese market in mind; there are Moomin-adorned UV-protecting gloves, Moomin sun cream (pictured above and popular with Japanese women keen to protect their skin from harmful rays), Snork-shaped chopsticks and beautiful soy sauce dishes.

Fantastically elaborate pop-up cards cater to the Japanese's loves of origami and given their love of a good soak in an onsen, it's hardly surprising that the Moomin-adorned bath salts are flying off the shelves.

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2. For the chance to win prizes

There’s plenty of Moomin merchandise to win, too. The most popular game appears to be one called Fishing with Too-Ticky, giving visitors the chance to win an enormous Moomin by using a giant inflatable hammer to launch foam shapes at a Moomin-themed backdrop. I’m not sure where the fishing element comes in, but perhaps it’s been lost in translation.

3. For Moomin-themed foods

And then there's the food. I skip the Moomin-themed fish sausage that I spot at the gift shop, and head to the café for a slice of cake shaped like the Moominhouse (complete with a pecan for a chimney), washed down with blueberry tea, courtesy of a sky blue, Moomin-themed teabag.  

Moomin tea and cake at Moominvalley Theme Park, TokyoCourtesy of Tamara Hinson

There's a restaurant too, although I give this a miss when I notice the length of the queue. But even this aspect has been given a typically Japanese, hi-tech makeover. Visitors can queue virtually by printing off a receipt bearing a QR code. Once scanned, it alerts you when your table is ready.

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4. For hi-tech attractions

The tech's been applied to the main attractions, too.

At Little My’s Attraction, I enter a quaint wooden building before watching a Moomins animation on a huge screen. It's all rather surreal, especially when the faces of audience members appear on the screen, thanks to a hidden camera which has captured their images seconds earlier.

Meanwhile at the park’s Oshun Oxtra Theater (named after a boat Moominpappa once sailed in), another Moomins tale plays out, this time with the addition of some seriously hi-tech projection mapping which transforms the floor into an ocean. There are splashes of (real) water and at one point, an enormous boat slides into the room through hidden doors.


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5. For Moomin history

My favourite bit is the Kokemus ("experience" in Finnish), a three-storey space which provides an insight not only into the Moomins' popularity in Japan but into the life of the books' author, Tove Jansson.

She created the first book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, in 1945, as the Second World War was coming to an end. Jansson described how the Moomins feared the destruction of their houses at a time when bombs had destroyed the homes of many of Jansson’s neighbours.


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There’s a fascinating display of rare merchandise, including a silver Moomins spoon dating back to the 1960s, Moomins figures from the 1950s and Japanese Moomins books dating back to 1965. In the section dedicated to the Moomins’ musical endeavours, I find vinyl records dating back to the 1950s and a programme from a Moomins play performed in 1949.

The verdict?

By the time the sun starts to sink behind the Moominhouse I’ve spent such shocking quantities of Japanese yen on Moomin-themed goods that I might have to live on microwave noodles for the rest of my visit to Japan.

My nephews, parents, husband, dog and goddaughter will all be getting Moomin merchandise this Christmas, and I’m already regretting my decision to skip the Moomin-adorned UV ray-protecting gloves. I’m thoroughly Moomined-out. But then again, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

More information

Entry to Moominvalley Park costs £11.50 (1,500 yen) for adults and £7.70 (1,000 yen for children. For more information, visit Metsä Village.

British Airways offers returns from London to Tokyo from £775 return. Rooms at Hoshino Resorts’ OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka start from £96 per night.



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