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 Akebono Kodomo no Mori Koen is not simply a wide, open space where people gather. Instead, it is a collection of adorable buildings, bridges, a tree house, and a light-house in the center of a small pond. On weekends, it is packed with screaming kids, families, and groups of school-children.
Based off of the Finnish “Moomin” series by Tove Jansson, this park is free to enter. 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.
Since this park is free, I expected to see low-quality buildings that only vaguely shadowed the original comic. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see the immense attention to detail.
The most impressive building was 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 was decked out with beds, a kitchen, couches, or other places for children to play. The basement doubled as a dance studio and opened 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 were clean (since dust wasn’t being tracked in) and the furniture remained in good condition.
The other two buildings were devoted to telling about the Moomin family. They had 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 the Moominvalley park; I didn’t see any employees hanging around. Since the park was nestled in the mountains of Saitama, it had plenty of space for children to run around. There were several pathways leading into the forest, so that children could play on the bridges or Moomin treehouse.
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All in all, Moominvalley Akebono Kodomo no Mori Koen is a great place to spend the afternoon. It’s quite commons 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).
Next time you get a break, be sure to hop on a train down to Saitama and spend a wonderful afternoon at the whimsical Akebono Kodomo no Mori Koen, the Moominvalley of Tokyo.
Can’t make it out to Saitama? Try the Moomin-themed restaurant in Tokyo.
|Name:||Akebono Kodomo no Mori Park (あけぼの子どもの森公園)|
|Address:||893-1 Azu, Hanno, Saitama Prefecture 357-0046, Japan|
|Access:||20 minute walk from Motokaji Station, Seibu Ikebukuro Line, Saitama Prefecture, Japan|
|Business hours:||9:00AM - 5:00PM (closed on Mondays and Public Holidays)|
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