The Moominvalley Park opened on March 16, 2019 in Hanno City, about 40 kilometers northwest of Tokyo. It is the second Moomin theme park in the world and the first one outside of Finland. Modeled after the universe of the Moomins, the park brings to life the valley where the characters live and play.

For those unfamiliar with the Moomins, they are the characters in a series of Finnish children's stories by Tove Jansson. Among the diverse characters appearing in the story, the central ones are white bipedal creatures that resemble hippopotamuses and are called Moomintroll, Moominpappa, Moominmamma and Snorkmaiden. Other main characters include Little My and Snufkin who resemble humans. These characters reside in Moominvalley where they have their adventures and encounter other characters when venturing out of the valley.

Originally written in Swedish, the Moomin stories have been translated into a number of languages including English and Japanese. While the stories are aimed at children, that isn't to say that grown-ups cannot learn anything from them. Instead, deeper insight can be gleaned from the stories as adults. Accordingly, the theme park is not only for children to experience the world of Moomin, but also for adults to gain a deeper understanding of the author, her life and her art.

The Moominvalley Park is part of Metsä, a Nordic-themed complex that Sam visited in November last year when the first part of the complex, the Metsä Village, was opened a few month ahead of the theme park. Visitors will have to pass through the Metsä Village, which is free to enter and offers lots of dining and shopping options, before arriving at the entrance of the theme park.

Metsä can be reached by train and bus in about an hour from Tokyo. More detailed access information is available here.

I found the walk through the Nordic-themed village very lovely, and it wasn't long before I arrived at the entrance of the Moominvalley Park. Entrance to the park costs 1500 yen and can be purchased online before arrival. There are a few attractions in the park that require an extra charge, and tickets for those can also be purchased online together with your entrance ticket or on the day in the park.

Unlike the other familiar theme parks like Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios Japan, the Moominvalley Park does not offer a plethora of amusement rides. Instead, the focus is on enjoying the world of the Moomins as they do, in harmony with nature. The attractions are spread across the park, and walking around and seeing all the attractions at a leisurely pace takes between three to four hours.

As a newcomer to the world of the Moomins that Tove Jansson created, I felt that this theme park provided one of the best first experiences (for me) to a new universe. Visually, it was a gentle introduction as there was lots of greenery, and there wasn't a sensory overload of too many things happening at once.

There are four zones in the theme park: the Welcome Cove where the entrance is, the Moominvalley where the main attractions are, Kokemus which is the exhibition facility, and the Lonely Mountain which is a forested area. There is plenty of outdoor seating with benches scattered across the park and a small number of food options in the theme park.

I started my adventure in the Moomin universe at the Moominvalley, watching one of the scheduled shows at the outdoor theatre which featured characters like Moomintroll, Moominpappa, Moominmamma, Little My and Snufkin, performing a short skit and singing. The show was in Japanese, but I'm sure it would be just as interesting to watch the performance without understanding the language.

The biggest and most eye-catching feature in the Moominvalley was without a doubt the Moominhouse, a tall, round, blue house where the Moomin family live. House tours are offered at an extra charge and proved to be the most popular paid attraction. Those without tickets to the house tour can only view it from the outside.

From there, I made my way towards the Lonely Mountain, the forested area where Moomintroll and his friends went on an adventure. The main attraction here is the Hemulen's Playground, a large treehouse shaped playground on top of a small hill for both adults and children. This is the place to be if you want to relive your childhood playing in playgrounds.

Finally, I made my way to Kokemus, the three-storied exhibition facility. The exhibition starts on the third floor where visitors will be plunged into the world that Tove Jansson created. The figures on display are human-sized, and everyone was all free to step into the dioramas and be participants of the installation, which I gladly did. It was very refreshing to see an interactive exhibition that also told the story of the characters.

Outside, there are a number of shops selling official themed merchandise in the Moominvalley Park, and the one inside Kokemus is the world's largest Moomin store in terms of both floor space and number of goods. There are three dining options and a small number of food stands within the theme park. However, re-entry into the park is allowed - as long as you get a re-entry stamp on the way out the first time - and there are plenty more dining options in the Metsä Village.

All good things have to come to an end, and it was time for me to say moikka (bye bye in Finnish) to the Moominvalley Park. It was definitely a fun first trip for me and I could see myself going to the theme park again.