A Day Of Fun For Mother And Daughter At Moominvalley Park
This whimsical outdoor theme park in Saitama is a great day out for all the family
The world of Moomin coupled with the popular trend of Nordic aesthetics in Japan has made the Moominvalley Park an instant hit attraction— one you shouldn’t miss if you’re exploring Saitama. Located along the Seibu train line inside the Nordic-themed facility is Metsä Village and Moominvalley Park, where there are several discounted train passes available for tourists that include entrance to the park and surrounding attractions, making a day trip easy on your wallet too.
Alongside Lake Miyazawa in Saitama Prefecture, about 70 kilometers northwest of central Tokyo, is Moominvalley Park, the new residence of the Moomin troll family. The heartwarming characters from the books by Finnish author Tove Jansson are well-known to most Japanese people in both my daughter’s and my generation, thanks to the popular television series.
As soon as you enter the outdoor complex, which is a 10-minute walk from the entrance of Metsä, it feels as if you have been transported to the Scandinavian Peninsula with real-life reproductions of scenes from the nostalgic storybooks. Even if you’re familiar with the stories, you will still learn things about Moomin and his friends and family that you probably weren’t aware of. The theme park draws its inspiration from both the book and the animation series (the origins of how Moominvalley has become so adored by all). To really emphasize this, the entrance welcomes you with large gates depicting the covers of four storybooks.
Meeting the Moominvalley characters
On a perfect day in early autumn with blue skies and puffy white clouds, my three-year-old daughter and I walked through the gates into the main area where the Moominhouse and the entertainment stage are located.
We were first guided to an indoor attraction called “Ocean Orchestra.” It was a great kick-off to our adventure, telling the story of a brave excursion undertaken by young Moominpappa. We had a few chuckles feeling some wind and rain as we experienced 4D projection mapping excitement.
Next, we watched the theatrical “Little My’s Play Spot” where we learned how the hobgoblin started living with the Moomin trolls. Not only do you get to enjoy a short film, this attraction goes beyond that by being playfully interactive. Little My’s character is very popular with youngsters in Japan. After seeing this attraction, we grew fonder of the mischievous My, whose melancholic story had slowly unfolded before us.
Exploring the Moominhouse via a guided tour was a learning experience for both of us. The guide who took us on a 20-minute tour of the three-floor house must be a walking Moomin-dictionary because she explained to us the smallest of details about the park and answered every one of our questions with a breeze.
Knowing the background of what’s inside the home while touching the objects and taking photos makes the tour much more enjoyable. We could have spent well over two hours in there finding out all sorts of hidden gems—but there was still so much more that we needed to explore!
All the main characters can be spotted wandering around Moominvalley and if you’re lucky, you can pose for a photo with them. Many Japanese people are fans of the supporting characters, too. Snufkin, for example, has a cool, nonchalant personality that makes all the girls go crazy. We were lucky enough to meet and take photos with them.
Moomin and his friends take turns to come by the photo booths which are manned by professional photographers—so you can guarantee a top-quality photo every time!
The fluffy creatures disguise their voices, but if you catch Snufkin and Little My in the photo spot, you can even have a conversation with them too.
We were in time for the show at the outdoor theater where we saw Moomin, Moominmamma, Moominpappa, Snufkin, Sniff, and Little My on stage and up close. There’s upbeat music and dancing with a plot simple enough for kids to understand yet also filled with philosophical quotes that leave moms and dads with all sorts of emotions.
For children who love outdoor fun
There is an obstacle course just before the entrance to Moominvalley, but if your children are small, I suggest you make use of the athletic fun at “Hemuin’s play park.” There’s no additional charge for this attraction and you can play for as long as you want. Slides, treehouses, wobbly obstacle courses, man-powered merry-go-round—you name it, they’ve got it. Not to mention, the scenic view from the top of the treehouse is quite something.
Lounging around with Nordic food
There are a couple of restaurants inside the park, and some food and beverage stands. We had lunch at “Muumilaakso ruokala” inside the Kokemus area just near the outdoor theater. “Flying Jacob stew (Chicken)” and “Green hat pasta (Japanese style garlic)” are both Insta-friendly and tasty. My daughter was more than happy with her adorable Moomin tableware as well. Lunchtime gets crowded even on a weekday, so I suggest you go there in advance to grab a reservation ticket. If you weren’t able to reserve a ticket and have to wait, Kokemus houses a souvenir shop stocked with limited items which you will make the wait-time fly by.
The pancake at “Lettula” on our way back was a marvelous treat. “Very Berry Lettu” has various berry toppings and the heavenly pancake with berry flavored ice cream melts in your mouth. Sip on some coffee to bite the sweetness from an original Moominvalley Park coffee mug which can be purchased at the store next door.
Appreciating Moomin once again
So put on your athletic gear and comfortable sneakers, maybe even a tarp or blanket to lay out on the green grass or flower fields where you can sit down and relax by the lake—the perfect escape to a storyland where time flows slowly.
Working parents will definitely enjoy this break, but maybe it’s the city children who need this the most. For my daughter, there isn’t a day when she doesn’t talk about Moomin now and I’m pretty sure Moomin is going to feature somewhere on her Christmas wish list. She said holding hands with the Moomins and taking photos were the best part. I think it made her feel special, and with that, my mission as a mom was accomplished for the day.
Visit Moominvalley Park and other attractions with the MOOMINVALLEY PARK Ticket and Travel Pass
If you are traveling on public transportation, make sure to benefit from a convenient MOOMINVALLEY PARK Ticket and Travel Pass that includes unlimited train rides on all Seibu train lines (excluding the Tamagawa Line), a round trip bus transfer between Hanno or Higashi-Hanno Station and Metsä Village with admission to the park. They can be purchased at Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and Takadanobaba stations, Seibu Tourist Information Center Ikebukuro, and tourist agencies.
Combine a trip to Moominvalley Park with a visit to Kawagoe
With the ticket and travel pass, you can visit another fairytale-like attraction along the Seibu Line—a picturesque town called Kawagoe. Nicknamed “Little Edo,” Kawagoe is a charming piece of living history where you can walk through the traditional streets dipping into the generations-old stores, and sampling local treats.
There are museums and temples to visit too, including Kitain temple which houses parts of the only surviving buildings of the original Edo castle (where the Imperial Palace now stands).
Erected during the Edo period and since rebuilt multiple times, the Toki no Kane clock tower is a key feature of Kawagoe’s historical landscape. The beautiful tower rings four times a day and was designated as one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan along with Japanese cranes in Hokkaido and the bamboo forest at Arashiyama, Kyoto.
Those with time should make the trip out past Hanno into Chichibu where seasonal fun abounds in the form of whitewater rafting in Nagatoro, flower-viewing in Hitsujiyama Park, and hiking on Mt. Kumotori to see the changing autumn leaves. Basically, there are tons of fun, family-friendly things to do in Saitama. So what are you waiting for?!
Address: Metsa, 327-6 Miyazawa, Hanno-shi, Saitama Prefecture
Access: Around 50 minutes from Ikebukuro Station via Seibu Red Arrow Limited Express and Bus/Taxi
Open: Daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Admission: ¥1,500 (Adults), ¥1,000 (Children over 4), Free for kids under 3.
All activities are free for kids under 3.
Attractions: Ocean Orchestra ¥1,000, Little My’s Play Spot ¥700, Moominhouse guided tour ¥1,000, Photobooth ¥2,000 (one photo) | see all other attractions here.