Eat Moomin

Usually people have no clue about what or where Finland is, but in Japan I can proudly say I am from Finland. In few occasions with my Swedish friends, the people asking our origin don’t understand the word “Suweeden”, but start “aahing”, smiling and nodding when I say Finland. Why is Finland so well known and popular? Not because of ice hockey or Angry Birds (which is not so popular to begin with). It’s Santa Claus and Moomin!

Moomin cafe, Tokyo Dome
Moomin cafe, Tokyo Dome

After seeing the Moomin cafe in Fukuoka, I of course had go to see the other two highly popular ones in Tokyo as well.

Tokyo Skytree, waiting time unknown
Tokyo Skytree, waiting time unknown

The verdict (without actually trying the menu):
All of the Moomin cafes are very adorable, and they have the Moomin atmosphere. The plush toys and books are comfy addition to the decoration, and the moomin background “music” surely reminds of the animation series (even though in Japanese and with different voice-overs).

Finnish color theme and happy customers
Finnish color theme and happy customers

My favorite of the cafes is definitely the Tokyo Dome one. Where as the menus in all of the cafes are similar, Japanified versions of something people might eat in Finland, in Tokyo Dome they also have a pretty decent selection of what seemed like pretty decent breads. Unfortunately, the bread buffet couldn’t be ordered without a meal. Having been bread-deprived for the last half year, I most likely would have gone overboard with the buffet alone.

I have never heard about blueberry coffee in Finland - and the "naminami" (yum yum) munkki doesn't sound familiar, either
I have never heard about blueberry coffee in Finland – and the “naminami” (yum yum) munkki doesn’t sound familiar, either

The menus in each cafe are a bit different, but all of them have cute “breads” (=sweet bread rolls) with Moomin characters on them. In all of the cafes, one can also enjoy (or “enjoy”) the Finnish Lapinkulta beer.

Moomins welcoming customers to come feel at home
Moomins welcoming customers to come feel at home

Visiting Moomin cafes is definitely interesting, no matter if you’re Finnish or not. If you don’t know what Moomin is, it will still be an experience. For me, the cafes were something familiar, yet something completely different from what we would have back home. The meals were kinda close to Finnish style food, but still very much like in other lunch cafes. The shops attached to the cafe sell more or less Finnish Moomin products for high prices, but at least some of the stuff (or Chinese versions of them) you can buy from other places as well.

Enjoy the Finland feeling and fall in love with Finland and the Nordic countries. From the land of lakes and snow
Enjoy the Finland feeling and fall in love with Finland and the Nordic countries. From the land of lakes and snow
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Break, 1st quarter: Finnish in Fukuoka

Last week we had quarter break here in APU, so I more than gladly took the chance to get away: first to Kyushu’s biggest city Fukuoka, and from there to South Korea’s capital, Seoul!

It took just two hours from Beppu to Fukuoka by highway bus, watching the beautiful fall scenery. During the two days I saw a lot, and visited all the main “areas”: Tenjin, Hakata and Canal City. It was great to get to a bigger city, and to get to eat good bread and “westernish” food!

More or less lovely Christmas decorations were all over the place

 

Besides roaming around all the department stores and malls, I found something quite peculiar in Fukuoka: The Moomin cafe!

Moomin cafe, selling oh-so familiar Lapin Kulta beer (yuck)

The Moomin shop sold Iittala and Arabia products from Finland as well as other Moomin-related stuff.

The cafe menu was not “Finnish”, even though they had bread rolls that were supposedly made by a Finnish lady whose picture was on the wall. Seeing those white buns, I doubt their Finnish origins. Notice the only Finnish thing on the bottom of the menu: glögi, our traditional winter/Christmas drink!

Cute, (over-sweet) dishes featuring Moomin characters

The Moomin cafe had Moomin books in Japanese, and the background music was actually Moomin episodes (nihongo, of course)! The slogan of the cafe is: “Kaikki hauska on hyvää vatsalle” which means “Everything fun is good for the stomach”. Cute!

I also stumbled upon this:

Kitchen, selling clothes

Oh yes, I do like Japan, especially the cities. You never know what you might find (in my case, that is not clothes, though)!

Next time, something about Seoul.

Japanese harmony and perfect fall weather

 

Detouring and re-routing

I left home in Tampere on Sunday noon, my plan was to arrive in the university on early Monday evening. Ha! This is what we in Finland would call “a Chinese tale”.

Finnair flying over Finland, everything was just fine

My planned itinerary was Helsinki-Beijing, then after 2 hours layover, to Fukuoka, and from there a 2 hours bus ride to APU. Everything started out fine; even though my special meal request had not gone through to Air China for some reason, the co-operating Finnair flight attendant was kind enough to get me some fruit, bread and nuts from the first class. We arrived in Beijing on time, and I went through few customs and immigrations checks before finding out that the flight to Fukuoka had been delayed due to a typhoon. I was bounced back and forth in Beijing airport, since the staff had different opinions about whether I needed to check my bag or not, and God knows what else. The flight was from domestic terminal, though Fukuoka is in Japan, which was kind of odd to me.

Takeoff to Fukuoka was finally at 12:30, almost 4 hours late of schedule. After few hours in the air, I was surprised to be landing in a Chinese city called Dalian. Apparently it was a pit stop on the way, no one just had mentioned about it. We were sitting on the plane for few hours, not going anywhere, not knowing what was going on. No one bothered to explain anything, either. Eventually, we were told that all flights were cancelled due to the typhoon – we were then taken to a hotel in the city, where they gave us rooms for a few hours. After a Chinese dinner, we had to go back to the airport, to be flown to – drumroll – Beijing! Few people were rather upset, myself included, since to me going back to Beijing was taking a step backwards. We had no idea how and when to get to Fukuoka, since in the Air China staff in Dalian was just rather reluctant to answer, or understand, any questions that were asked.

We arrived back in Beijing around 9pm, after which it was a race to the service counter to sort out the flights. No way of getting straight to Fukuoka the following day, the best option seemed to be through Tokyo. The plane was scheduled to leave 8:30 am, which would allow 2 hours layover before the flight to Fukuoka. Had this plan worked (sorry for the spoiler, of course there had to be additional twists!), I would have only missed the mandatory orientation, but made it to the complimentary dinner party in Tuesday evening. Around 1 am, when everyone from the flight had sorted out their itineraries, everyone non-Japanese was transported to a hotel to enjoy a nice 4 hours before coming back to the airport in the morning. (The Japanese people had to stay at the airport, racist!)

In the morning, we found out that the flight to Tokyo was delayed, giving us barely an hour window to get to the Fukuoka flight. Ha! Of course, our flight was late, and we landed approximately at the same time the Fukuoka flight took off. Thank God at this point we were already in Japan, which was clearly visible: everyone going to Fukuoka was greeted and assisted to the right direction when getting off the plane, we (me and few other students) were taken to the immigration office to get our alien cards, and we were smoothly re-scheduled to the next possible flight, which a) was ANA in stead of Air China, and b) was the biggest and neatest plane of all the ones I sat on.

Cuteness attack in the baggage claim in Fukuoka

In Fukuoka, I was happy and tired to finally be at the home stretch of the trip. There was someone waiting for me and another girl going to study in the same school, so getting on the right bus after an hours’ wait was fairly easy. I was very lucky to have Kristina with me on the same flight, with the same direction, since I would probably have lost my marbles if I had been in this situation by myself. There was also other people helping us, which made everything more endurable.

In stead of arriving to APU on Monday evening, it was late Tuesday night (no dinner no more), before I finally got to open the door to my very own home for the next five months. (Pictures of that later on!)