Japan truly has more than its fair share of cafes and restaurants based on shows, cartoon characters and movies. However, beyond the adjoining merchandise store and appropriately designed decor and menu, the Moomin Cafes offer something else significant — the staff try to fill every empty seat with a big cuddly Moomin character.
The Moomins is a series of books and comics by Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson. The popularity of the adorable characters from Moominvalley has caught on in Japan, and has spawned a string of Moomin-themed cafes and bubble tea stands. The popularity of these cafes are not just restricted to fans of the series though, they have become well-known around the world as “anti-loneliness” cafes as lone diners can sit with a chair filled with a Moomin character.
Most of the patrons there were actually in groups or couples who just enjoy having the company of an extra cuddly friend at the table. In fact, diners in pairs are seated at a table for three or four, so that they can be joined later by a Moomin character. The café is quite small, and because extra room is needed for the Moomins, there is almost always a queue to get in.
The menu has some Finnish items on it, and also serves the usual café fare of sandwiches, salads, cakes, coffee and tea. Most of the food comes with some form of Moomin art work. I went there for dinner and ordered a family plate, which came with corn soup, salad, chicken stew and rice. The soup and stew may be different depending on which day you go. For the shape of the rice, you can choose between two characters, and there is a bit of Moomin-shaped pasta in the salad. You can also have latte art of your favourite character from the series.The menu will be different depending on whether what time of the day you visit.
Overall, though I’m not a Moomin fan myself, it was a lovely dining experience. As a single diner, I had a Moomin for company and the meal was tasty although not very filling. I did not really feel that a big difference that there was a stuffed toy sitting opposite me, and I feel like the positive dining experience was more a result of the the homely décor and friendly staff. Moreover, from my observations, it is not uncommon to dine alone in Tokyo. Whether due to the strength of Moomin fandom, or its appeal to single diner, this concept café is nevertheless doing well. If you want try this café, try to avoid peak hours or prepare for a queue. The adjacent concept store is filled with a plethora of cute Moomin merchandise that is worth checking out as well.