Moomin Valley Park in Saitama (the neighboring prefecture just north of Tokyo) has officially opened on March 16, 2019! Here’s all you need to know about planning your visit.
The Moomins in the Land of the Rising Sun
The Moomins are a family of large, white, almost-hippopotamus creatures that live in harmony in Moominvalley. Throughout their books, TV shows, and movies, they go on all sort of adventures.
While Japan may not immediately spring to mind when you think of Moomins, they have a long history here. In fact, if you grew up watching the animated shows of the ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘90s (aside from the nightmare-inducing, stop-motion version), you were watching Japanese anime. Tove Jansson, Mother of Moomins herself, supervised the later scripts, and made a big impression during her travels in Japan.
Given Japan’s enduring soft-spot both for Moomins and theme parks, it’s no big surprise that Moomintroll and his friends have chosen to live here as expats!
What to expect at Moomin Valley Theme Park
Here’s our rundown of the attractions:
The main attraction is set a three-floor Moomin house, pulled straight from the pages of Jansson’s drawings. Replete with a cellar pantry, living room, dining room, bedrooms and even the author’s study in the attic—the experience is focused on the lives and history of the Moomins, as well the storied life of the artist herself. There is an extra fee of ¥1,000 to enter.
This section allows you to enter the “Oshun Oxtra”, the sometimes flying, sometimes submersible ship. It’s a theatrical “immersive experience”, featuring projection elements on the walls, floors and objects on board. There is an extra fee of ¥1,000 to enter.
Proof that kids get all the fun. For children there’s an exciting adventure playground. For adults, there’s a relaxing sit down or a stroll.
This area is also the launchpad for the Hobgoblin’s Zipline Adventure (¥1,500. Perhaps the park’s most thrilling opening attraction, the zipline appears to whisk participants of all ages through the treetops and over the lake.
Lighthouse and bathing hut
The lighthouse and bathing hut offer nothing more than stately photo ops. In true 2019 tourism style, you can hashtag your way into being an unpaid publicist for the park while simultaneously boosting your follower count
These days, Moomins are all about the merch, so it’s no surprise to see a sizeable giftshop, offering of dedicated Moomins products in the world, including exclusive products only available in Moomin Valley Park.
As part of the same complex, Metsä village is a free-to-enter shopping complex. Designed as an antidote to the hustle and bustle of Japanese life, the area styles itself as a chilled-out place to visit, with plenty of walking routes, viewing spots and rest areas. Taking a relaxing boat trip on the lake or joining in at a craft workshop is about as high-octane as things get here. The sizeable shopping area offers a wide range of Scandinavian-themed food, clothing, toys and decorations. There’s also an outdoor area with a few food trucks, where you can enjoy a craft beer and a sausage in warmer weather.
Pricing and tickets
Entry into the park for adults costs ¥1,500 or ¥1,000 for children. Kids under four go free—and you can book your tickets online (plus parking, more on that below). As you may have guessed, the site is currently available in Japanese only. If that’s an issue for you, muddling through with Google Translate is an option, but they haven’t made it easy. Creating an account appears to be laborious and mandatory.
You can also buy your tickets at the park. Though, there’s risk involved in just showing up on the day depending on how busy the park gets.
Guided tours of the Moomin House, the Ocean Orchestra and the Zipline Adventure seem to each cost an additional ¥1,000–¥1,500 per person. The canoe lake ride is an extra ¥2,000.
Getting there and getting around
If you’re without a car, your best option is to catch a train. The Ikebukuro Line Redarrow runs every hour and usually takes around 40 minutes. Alternatively you can take either the northbound Seibu-Ikebukuro or Fukutoshin Line to Hanno Station, which are closer to 50 minutes. From there you’ll want to take a 15-minute bus to the park.
If you really have to drive, be warned that the parking fee can costs you up to ¥1,500 at weekends and holidays. Thankfully parking is now free during the week (Metsa sensibly decided to drop the fee). If you do some nordic souvenir shopping (or eating) at Metsa village after your visit to moomin valley, hold on to your receipts as if you spend more than 5,000yen you can claim free parking.
If coming at the weekend note the neighboring Kirari Onsen (27-49 Miyazawa, Hanno 357-0001, Saitama Prefecture) shares the same parking area, and includes a certain amount of free parking time:
- General entry to the onsen gives you 2.5 hours free parking.
- Ganbanyoku (stone sauna) entry gives you 3.5 hours free parking
- If you eat at the restaurant there, you get 5 hours free parking
So if you’re making a day of it, start with a hot bath at the nearby Kirari Onsen, lunch, then head to the Moomin Park for the remainder of your free parking time. Unfortunately young children (below 5 years old) aren’t allowed in the onsen.
Of course the bus from Hanno Station (where there’s other parking options) is only ¥200/¥100.
Elementary School students: ¥2,000
Special thanks to Kaori Kato and Chris Kirland for their contributions to this guide.
The alternative free Moomin Park (also in Saitama)
Get your Moomin fix at no cost.
Nestled in the mountains of Saitama—a prefecture famous for having “nothing”—is a whimsical park for children. However, unlike most parks in Japan, the Tove Jansson Akebono Children’s Forest Park is not simply a wide, open space where people gather. Instead, it is a collection of adorable buildings, bridges, a tree house, and a lighthouse in the center of a small pond. On weekends, it is packed with screaming kids, families, and groups of schoolchildren. Also based off of the Finnish Moomin series by Tove Jansson, this park is free to enter.
Since this park is free, we expected to see low-quality buildings that only vaguely shadowed the original comic. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to see the immense attention to detail.
The most impressive building is the white, adobe-style house with solar panels and real grass growing on the roof. The inside of the building houses three floors, with elaborate, wooden staircases, beautiful iron railing, and small windows for children to climb through. The house is decked out with beds, a kitchen, couches, and other places for children to play. The basement doubles as a dance studio and opens up to a nearby stream.
You have to take your shoes off before entering the building; each entrance had nearly a hundred pairs of shoes scattered around. However, as a result, the floors are clean (since dust isn’t being tracked in) and the furniture remains in good condition.
The other two buildings are devoted to telling about the Moomin family. They have story books, figurines, and newspaper clippings from historically significant parts in the Moomin storyline history (such as when the first book was published or when the author won an award).
There were no rules in at the park; we didn’t see any employees hanging around. Since the park is nestled in the mountains of Saitama, it has plenty of space for children to run around. There are also several pathways leading into the forest, so that children can play on the bridges or Moomin treehouse.
All in all, the Akebono Children’s Forest Park is a great place to spend the afternoon. It’s quite common to see families, couples or even older folk walking through the hills. Near the entrance of the park is a gift shop, where you can buy any and all Moomin-related products (like pens, cups, blankets, food, or key chains).
Tove Jansson Akebono Children’s Forest Park review by Grace Buchele Mineta.
Can’t make it out to Saitama? Try the Moomin-themed restaurant in Tokyo.