“Lie on the bridge and watch the water flowing past. Or run, or wade through the swamp in your red boots. Or roll yourself up and listen to the rain falling on the roof. It’s very easy to enjoy yourself.”
― Tove Jansson, Moominvalley in November
In so writing, Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson, creator of the whimsical world of Moominvalley, has captured the spirit of the Nordic lifestyle. It is small wonder that she has inspired many all over the world to recreate the idyllic beautiful place dotted with trees, rolling grassy fields, rivers, and flowers. The latest addition to the list of Moomin-inspired theme parks is Metsä Village which opened last November, 2018. Located by Lake Miyazawa, Hannō, in Saitama Prefecture northwest of Tokyo, the area appears to be a piece of Scandinavia transported to Japan.
From the entrance, you walk downhill a tree-lined driveway, as ambient troubadour-like music floats out of the trees. Suddenly, you feel that you have entered someone’s dream, a world completely different from the one you left behind. Here, time moves much slower. Like most people, you will probably be drawn to the water. The calm and peaceful lake reflects the surrounding trees whose colors change with the seasons and is dramatically backdropped by the Chichibu mountains. Across the lake, you can see the iconic round Moominhouse, which is part of the Moomin Valley Park set to open in March, 2019.
Meanwhile, there is a lot to explore within the village area. As you walk clockwise down the lake, you will spy a dock and gorgeously handmade all-wood canoes. Hanno is a nature-rich area with a history in the lumber industry that can be traced back to the Edo period. For a fee, you can try your hand at paddling across the lake, or if you are are more interested in the craftsmanship, check out the nearby wood workshop where you can sign up to make your very own kayak or create something simpler such as a spoon or a keyholder.
Exploring the area, you will see why Scandinavian designers prefer wood furnishings and finishes. Wood brings more warmth and comfort but also add richness and finesse to its surroundings. That’s why a graceful wood chair is more inviting than a plastic chair of the same design. At Metsa Village, all toilet facilities feature wood panels, making them unexpectedly homey.
All this coziness will inevitably make you crave a warm drink and something delectable to go with it. Depending on your mood, you can grab a cup of coffee or a sandwich from one of the food trucks by the lakeside and enjoy it al fresco, or sit down with your date for more formal fare inside the Viking Hall. Of all the dining options, I was drawn to Nordics.
You can’t miss this cafe — it is the lakefront house painted a vivid shade of azure blue. Nordics dishes up authentic Scandinavian fare but what’s even more special is that your order is served on exquisite Royal Copenhagen tableware. Royal Copenhagen was founded by Danish Queen Julianne Marie in 1775 and has since then been one of the most sought-after fine porcelain.
If this inspires you to bring some of this Northern European charm home, head to the shops which are stocked with home items and goodies from Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
For a taste of uniquely Scandinavian way of enjoying simple pleasures, spend a day at Metsä Village.