Theme restaurants can be a lot of fun. Whether you’re munching on Final Fantasy desserts or knocking back a cocktail while surrounded by witches and monsters, a little break with reality can be just the secret ingredient you need for a satisfying meal.
Except, what do you do if you can’t round up a posse to go with you? Playing make-believe in a group can be fun, when everyone is egging each other on and having a good laugh, but most people feel awkward enough eating in a normal restaurant alone, let alone one that’s recreating a fictional world.
Thankfully, the Moomin Café has a solution to the solo-dining dilemma: they’ll seat stuffed versions of the beloved cartoons’ characters at your table to keep you company.
Having grown up in America, I wasn’t really aware about the whole Moomin franchise until I came to Japan. Although originally a series of Finnish picture books about a family of hippopotamus-like creatures, there’ve also been numerous animated versions of Moomin, many as joint Finnish/Japanese productions.
While it’s been more than 20 years since the last TV iteration of Moomin finished its broadcast run, the series still remains extremely popular in Japan, no doubt due to its instantly recognizable cast of characters. As a matter of fact, Moomin has such a large following that there’s even a chain of Moomin cafes managed by Benelic, the same company behind the Dongrui Kyowakoku retail outlets that are packed with Studio Ghibli anime merchandise.
Each branch of the Moomin Café is filled with decorations, merchandise, and food and drink inspired by the series’ artwork.
It’s obviously a real treat for fans of the series, but it puts you in kind of a bind if you’re the only real Moomin lover in your circle of friends. Still, it seems one Twitter user, who goes by the name Haru, was determined to pay the restaurant’s Tokyo Dome City LaQua branch a visit, even though she didn’t have anyone to go with her.
She bravely stepped inside, took a seat, and placed her order. But as she was sitting by herself, waiting for her food to come, she was approached by one of the staff, who came over to inform Haru there was someone who’d like to sit with her, if she didn’t mind.
It turned out the server was making the request on behalf of The Snork Maiden, the girlfriend of Moomin’s main character, Moomintroll. “The waitress had such a big smile on her face, I couldn’t say no,” Haru recalls, embarrassedly. “But it was also so cute!”
Since then, other visitors to the Moomin Café have reported having similar experiences. Although this special accommodation hadn’t attracted much attention until now, Benelic says the policy has been in place since the café opened in 2003. “Guests to Moominhouse are welcomed by the Moomin family,” said a spokesperson from the company’s PR department.
This service isn’t exclusive to the Tokyo Dome City branch, either, as it’s also available at the Moomin Cafes at Solamachi entertainment complex at the base of the Tokyo Skytree, and also the Canal City shopping center in Fukuoka. Stuffed versions of Moomintroll, Moominpappa, Moominmamma, and Snork Maiden are standing by at all three locations, and the roster grows to six at Tokyo Dome City where the oddly-named characters Sniff and Stinky are also available to share your table with.
Whether you feel more self-conscious eating in a restaurant by yourself or with a jumbo-sized stuffed animal is a question you’ll have to answer for yourself, but either way, consider us impressed by this clever and sweet idea.
Moomin Bakery and Café /ムーミン ベーカリー＆カフェ
Address: Tokyo-to, Bunkyo-ku, Kasuga 1-1-1, Tokyo Dome City LaQua 1st floor
東京都文京区春日1-1-1 東京ドームシティ ラクーア １Ｆ
Open 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m.