Today’s guest blog is from my fabulous travel buddy Oana, who I spent two amazing weeks with in Japan! I roped her into doing some blogging, so here’s her first one about a trip to the Moomin Cafe in Tokyo!
Ever since reading this article on The Guardian, my plan was to sneakily work in a detour to the Moomin Cafe in Tokyo. I had always thought the Moomins were sweet as a small child, so the temptation to have a snack in the company of a giant, stuffed quasi-hippopotamus was a novelty I couldn’t pass up on. We arrived tired, hungry and bewildered on our first day, so a themed cafe may not have been the best introduction to Japanese cuisine. However, our Asakusa hostel was located near enough to the branch under the Tokyo Sky Tree so we could pay a quick visit!
The original Moomin cafe opened in the Tokyo Dome in 2003, and in addition to the one we visited there is one in Fukuoka. Several articles have portrayed these as ‘anti-lonliness’ cafes, because who wouldn’t want to eat in the company of a huge cuddly toy to make a solo cafe trip less awkward? In all honesty, Japan does seem to have a fondness for the Moomins (possibly due to the fact that the 1990 animated adaptation of the Finnish cartoon was made in Japan) and you can find merchandise in lots of other shops. We saw it less as a dining experience for the lonely but simply another novelty cafe, where you can be surrounded by the characters in a cutesy atmosphere, eat a variety of Japanese and Finnish Moomin-themed food and have a nose in the gift shop afterwards. In fact, there were lots of families and groups of friends, with only one solo diner.
There was quite a big queue when we arrived at the end of lunch, so we were told to come later for the 5 o’clock slot. After wandering around the Solamachi shopping centre, drinking matcha lattes and making some ill-advised purchases at an anime store (namely Psycho Pass ‘Drop Drops’ sweets on Sophie’s behalf and an overpriced Gudetama pen on mine) we came back on time but had to wait around another 15 minutes before the Moomin glory could begin.
Admittedly even though my rice was adorably shaped the food wasn’t the best quality, but the real fun is when staff begin shifting Moomins around the restaurant and hearing the phrase “your Moomin will be with your shortly” before squeezing one of the characters in a vacant seat and accessorizing them. The staff were lovely and welcoming, making sure the stuffed creatures are rotated every once in a while and adorning our table with smaller-sized Moomin glove puppets and beanies. Sophie was justifiably pondering how often they are given a good wash, whilst I was too busy cuddling them to mind.
At the end of the meal, we moseyed to the little gift shop by the exit where you could buy, amongst other things: Finnish bread, Moomin cookie cutters, mugs, plates, more stuffed toys, pens and shaped cutlery. However, being Moomined-out by this stage, we went back to the hostel to crash after being awake for 24 hours!
Address: Tokyo Skytree Town Solamachi 1F
Nearest train station: Tokyo Sky Tree or Oshiage
Price: around 3,000 Yen for curry with rice and sweet corn soup; Finnish salmon and potatoes (potates)