Yesterday, I had no idea what a Moomin was. “Not A Moomin,” my friend corrected me “The Moomins.” The Moomins, it turns out are a family of large, white, vaguely hippopotamuses from the mind of Tove Jansson, a Swedish-Finn writer and illustrator. This carefree family of Moomins live in Moominvalley, a fantasy valley in Finland.
Well, apparently they have a home in Saitama (Japan) too.
Saitama is a prefecture in Japan famous for having nothing. Their towns are small and scarce; their fields and mountains are large. Their Moominvally Park (あけばの子供の森公園), however, is absolutely breathtaking.
Close your eyes and imagine what you would expect a themed park to look like. Alright now open them. Did the object in your mind look anything like this?
If you did, I’m sure you must have been disappointed a lot as a child, with those high expectations. If you were like me and came into the whole thing with radically low expectations, like me, you were probably amazed.
[The trick to never being disappointed is to have really low expectations]
Moominvalley was gorgeous. There were three fully functional houses families could tour, as well as a small lighthouse in the middle of the pound. The entire park was nestled in a valley, with a steeping mountain and glorious trees added to the mystery.
The Moomin family has been wildly popular in Japan for quite a while. The main characters are Moominpappa, Moominmamma, and Moomintroll (don’t ask me which one is which, I have no idea). The only one I can actually recognize is “Little My,” the angry and aggressive-looking grandma who isn’t a hippopotamus.
However, even though I knew absolutely nothing about the Moomins, I loved the Moominvalley (あけばの子供の森公園) Park. The attention to detail was astounding. The outsides of the houses, with their adobe styled walls, unique roofs (ranging from growing grass to solar panels to tiling to bars of timber), and wrought iron designs impressed me on a whole new level.
It would have been so easy to cut corners. A majority of the visitors were small children; the park itself was free to enter. In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, they totally cut some corners. Most rides in Disney have a couple cut corners. Not Moominvalley. Maybe it is because Moominvalley was in Saitama, a town famous for having nothing, that people wanted to make the park perfect.
They have three full-sized houses, a tree house, a small blue lighthouse in the middle of a river, a rusty tunnel bridge, and a hiking trail up the side of the mountain so you can look down at the Moomin village.
Moomins were so popular that alongside their serialized comic strip (from 1945 – 1993), they have also had nine books, five additional picture books, numerous tv shows and movies, and at least two themed parks, one called “Moomin World” in Naantali, Finland, and the Moominvalley in Saitama, Japan.
Moominvally Park is a great place to bring the family for a picnic. There were children running around everywhere, having the times of their life. I can’t wait to bring my own kids here (you know, in a good 10 years).
How to get to Moominvalley (あけばの子供の森公園)
The park is open from 8:30am to 5:15pm, Monday to Friday.
The closest station (a 15 minute walk) is Motokaji Station, run by the Seibu Ikebukuro Line.
The physically address of Moominvally is: Japan, 〒357-0046 Saitama-ken, Hannō-shi, Azu, ８９３−１ あけぼの子どもの森公園
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