Land of the Lakes in the Land of the Rising Sun

What a poetic title to a post mostly dedicated to consuming.
There’s more Finnish things than just the Moomin cafes in Japan, although most of the Finnish items you can find are related to Moomin. During my travels outside Beppu, I have found Marimekko stores as well as shops selling Iittala dishes. In Tokyo, there are also several shops with Finnish names. The shops may have nothing to do with Finland, but apparently the words sound nice to the Japanese.

Cucumber
Cucumber restaurant
Thank you shop
Thank you shop

I’ve also seen “I, butterfly” and “Maybe Cute” as well as “Kitchen” shops.

Some want to take the Finnish back home!

Sweet and savory Finnish containers
Sweet and savory Finnish containers
Our national pride, Iittala, on sale
Our national pride, Iittala, on sale

The Japanese travel to Finland to see the Aurora (Northern lights), which I have’t seen since the 90’s. Maybe also the nature attracts them. Food – not so much.

This is what Finland looks like
This is what Finland looks like

To balance things out, Ikea is not the only Swedish thing in Japan.

I thought Lapland is in Finland
I thought Lapland is in Finland
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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

Peculiar shopping

What you can’t find in Tokyo, you probably don’t need. On the other hand, there are many things that you can find, but definitely don’t need.

The "shaker"
The “shaker”

Besides the 100y shop (God bless Daiso for solving the students’ everyday needs), there are many peculiar shops such as Don Quijote, that sell rather unuseless knick-knacks.

Dirty bellybutton?
Dirty bellybutton? This chipmunk can help!
Squeezing diet
Squeezing diet
Iittala, on sale!
Iittala, on sale!

While most of the stuff is fairly harmless and mainly just peculiar (not the Finnish design plates, but the other items and so much more), there are some things in the stores that I just find a bit…disturbing.

Fetish literature, Village Vanguard
Fetish literature, Village Vanguard
Actress DNA, bra hok, honey lingerie and whatnot
Actress DNA, bra hok, honey lingerie and whatnot
Toys?
Toys?

Some things just can’t be explained.

Odaibadaibadaa

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Tokyo or New York?

The Monorail is a good way of seeing Tokyo from a different perspective. After a short ride enjoying the scenery, it takes you to the (fake) island of Odaiba. Oh, Odaiba!

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Again: Tokyo or New York?

Of course Japan needs its’ own Statue of Libery! The two towers (SkyTree and Tokyo Tower) just are not enough.

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No, it’s not a space shuttle. Fuji TV headquarters.

What is an artificial island without an UFO-like television station? Oh, and there is a huge Gundam-robot statue, too! (Yeah, I had to Google the writing and I have no clue what it is, but apparently it’s a BIG deal. Enormous.)

 

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Venus Fort. Shopper’s Paradise?

 Besides the huge robot, there’s also a Toyota play showroom, and apparently some kind of amusement park, or at least a giant ferris wheel. When the boys are with their toys, the ladies can spend hours in the Venetian/Greek-style shopping complex. Besides the Venus Fort, Odaiba has another shopping center with amusement park and maybe an aquarium as well (I can’t remember everything!).

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“Please keep the rules!”

There’s also a beach, and an Onsen “park”. I didn’t go there, so can’t really tell much about that. But you get the idea: first a sightseeing trip over the sea (cool), then to all of this and so much more – escape from the city to someplace rather bizarre! Plus the view to Tokyo is, well…

 

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Tokyo from “outside”

You can also take a cruise boat to the city, if you will.

If in Tokyo, do to Odaiba while you’re at it. Why not? Round trip is about 640y (6,5e) depending on the station. 

Specialities

Japan is known for its’ peculiarities. Here are some of my encounters during the Christmas season. I have earlier mentioned the Japanese love for (Christmas) cakes and maybe their sweet breads as well, but it’s hard to believe until you see for yourself.

 

I can only imagine the flavor
I can only imagine the flavor of these elves

Christmas trees, elves, houses, snowmen and basically everything else can be formed as pan, which is the Japanese equivalent to bread, which is nothing like what we call bread in Finland. If you buy bread in Japan thinking it is the same stuff you get back home, you’ll be in for a surprise. You never know if there’s spaghetti, curry, sausages or cream inside the fluffy pillowy dough.

Japanese version of a gingerbread house
Japanese version of gingerbread houses

After a while, it is not so weird to see the different characters made of food: the beloved animation character Anpanman has a nose made of pancake, and the super popular bean-paste filled dorayaki pancake gets its’ name from another anime character, Doraemon! The Japanese do love their sweets. And they are big on seasonal treats and specialities.

Individual packing is more a norm than exception
Individual packing is more a norm than exception

After Christmas, no snowmen can be found outside the sale boxes, since now it’s the time for snake everything – this is the year of the snake, so decorations in food and everything else are of course matching the theme. I even found special shop dedicated only for snake year stuff!

 

Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!
Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!

Example of the speciality craze: Pepsi co. launched a special seasonal drink, Pepsi white, to be sold only during this season. This mikan (mandarine) flavored drink is/was available in 6 different snowman style for a limited time – gotta catch ’em all, eh? I had a sip, and that was it for me. Drinking something that was a) pepsi, therefore carbonated but b) white and c) mandarine flavored was just messing with my brain a bit too much. I do feel special now, and less disappointed for missing the summer’s Salty Watermelon Pepsi! I wonder what’s next, both on the beverage field as well as in the “bread” section.

PS: I have discovered the Japanese fondness of KitKat chocolate bars. In Finland, we only have the basic version, but after doing some research, I found quite many different kinds during my trip. So, maybe I will get into the chocolate bar craze later on. I also have interesting omiyage (souvenir) package pictures and texts to share.

“Little by little you will be filled with happiness when relaxing with these delicious sweets.” Who could say no to those Cheese cookies from Yufuin?