If you hate the awkward feeling of dining alone, a cafe gaining popularity in Japan just might have the answer for your problem, even if the results are a little awkward themselves.
The Moomin House Cafe in Japan went viral a few weeks ago. According to CNN, its three locations have since been “besieged” by customers interested in its unusual, anti-loneliness take on solo dining.
The Cafe seats guests with stuffed animals called Moomins. A family of friendly, hippo-esque creatures, the Moomins were created by Tove Jansson, a Finnish illustrator who passed away in 2001.
One Twitter user, who uses the handle Haru, visited the Tokyo Dome City LaQua cafe, and as Japan’s Rocketnews24 reports, she was in for a bit of a surprise:
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.
Haru’s mystery guest turned out to be the Snork Maiden, girlfriend of Moomins character Moomintroll.
The Moomins enjoy a cult following worldwide, and while they may have started out as a series of picture books, there have been several animated adaptations of the character’s adventures as well. The series remains popular in anime-obsessed Japan, where the chain of cafes is operated by Benelic. According to the company, the policy of seating guests with stuffed animals has been in place since the cafe first opened in 2003, but hasn’t garnered any major attention until recently.
Although it may be over a decade old, Moomin House Cafe has seen a notable surge in popularity since the images went viral. According to staff, “long lines” have been the norm over the last few weeks as the cafe’s popularity has suddenly increased.
In order to celebrate the Finnish heritage of the characters, Moomin House Cafe serves rye bread, as well as pastries, food, and drinks featuring their images.
While there are now three Moomin cafes in Japan, they’re hardly the only destinations for fans of the franchise: a Moomin theme park exists on the island of Kailo in Finland. If the idea of dining with a Moomin appeals to you, don’t think you have to travel all the way to Japan: According to The Guardian, a branch recently opened in New York, where it will compete with some of the city’s other unique cafes.