Finland No Mori in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture where you can meet the real Santa all year round. You can also hang out in a Hammock cafe, get ice-cream in a Moomin mug and / or pick up some delicious cheese too! Information for the 2021 Santa Claus meet and greet at Finland no Mori is included in this post.
In the big search for Santa in 2015, one prefecture that stood out for having a great selection of Santa events and attractions was TOCHIGI. So my family of six took to the road to do a bit of reconnaissance. We were very happy with the trip and the abundance of Christmas events and Santa visits in areas of Tochigi. We particularly enjoyed visiting Santa in Finland no Mori. Not just because he’s the real Santa, but because Finland no Mori is a lovely little shopping area.
FINLAND NO MORI
Finland no Mori is a small Finnish theme park of sorts. There are only a few shops, but its a nice selection. I think the small retail park is aptly named as it does feel very Scandinavian.
Harman Stoves Store
The Harman store is the main shop at Finland No Mori. This is where Santa’s grotto is and where Santa visits in the run up to Christmas. The store sells Harman stoves. It also has a showcase of stoves through the ages. There is a novelty store within the shop. It sells Christmas goods, toys and wood crafted goods. A side entrance links the store to the cheese delicatessen.
Cheese Kubo & Mori no Pan
Cheese Kubo is a delicatessen and cafe. Not surprisingly it sells cheese! But it also sells a range of meat, bread and foreign produce. The Mori no Pay ya bakery is also in the same space, down the stairs from the deli counter. They normally have a chic Christmas tree there in the winter season. You can eat in or take out. There are tables inside and some outside, on a nice porch overlooking a wood.
The Hammock Cafe
The Hammock cafe is in a separate building to all of the above. It is a proper hammock cafe with dozens of hammocks both indoors and outside. They also have tent type hammocks as pictured in the photo on the right above. The photo was taken around the back of the cafe where the hammocks are under a roof. There is a trailer here that you can rent out. You can also book to have a barbecue in this area. Due to its location, concealed by the cafe itself and fencing one side, you wouldn’t know its there from the outside.
Metsa Ruaha was added in 2017. It is up the hill from the Hammock cafe. You can take a quaint boardwalk from the cafe to the restaurant through a sea of wooden Santa Claus! There is both outdoor and indoor seating at Metsa Ruaha too. And they have some hammocks as well! If you are getting a lunch, it is more convenient to sit indoors when you are eating. The lunch comes with all-you-can-eat side dishes, but the side dishes are self service. The coffee was particularly good. I never asked if it was the Moomin coffee or not – a question for our next visit!
Back down near the entrance of the retail park, in front of the Harman store, there is a small Moomin Shop. They sell various Moomin goods. Futhermore, they have an ice-cream that comes in a take-home Moomin cup.
- Chainsaw Wood Art
- Catch and release fishing
- Nordic lifestyle events
- Santa Claus Village…
Santa Claus Village at Finland No Mori
There is a live in Santa in Finland No Mori! He is the real Santa. They call the area around Metsa Ruaha “Santa Claus Village”. I can confirm that the Finland No Mori Santa is just how I remember Santa when I would visit his grotto in Ireland as a girl. Visiting the Santa at Finland no Mori made my children truly believe and added some magic to their Christmas experience. What makes that Santa so magical is that he is in a Grotto (or as they call it “Santa’s Office”) and he has his day sledge parked outside. It was the first thing the kids saw as we pulled into the car park of Finland No Mori and raised the excitement and anticipation from the get-go. It was the start of a magical day for my four kids aged 1 to 6 years old at the time, and I have to say, I enjoyed it more than I had expected.
Santa Visits at the Santa Claus Village
Santa visits in the run up to Christmas take place in the Harman Stove shop. (Out of season he visits the Metsa Ruaha restaurant). In a normal year, they offer two ways to meet Santa*. One is a free event that is usually run the weekend before Christmas. The other way is to spend more than 1000 yen at one of the cafes or shops, such as the bakery and foreign produce shop, Mori no Pan Ya, and get a ticket to see him on the same day. With this ticket you get the opportunity to take photos with your own camera. Each day the times are a little different and subject to change so please check on the website (below), but generally there is a mid-morning and early afternoon slot. The day we went the crowds weren’t actually that bad at all, but there was a TV crew there filming which held up the queue.
*Please note that in 2021 things are a bit different due to the pandemic. For one, there is no free visit this year. Moreover, in 2021, you need to spend more than 2000 yen to get one ticket to see Santa Claus.
2021 Santa Claus Meet and Greet Dates
Santa Claus will be visiting Finland no Mori on:
- Sunday December 12th,
- Saturday December 18th,
- Sunday December 19th,
- Christmas Eve,
- Christmas Day and
- Sunday December 26th.
Each day he will visit twice from noon to 1 pm and again from 2 pm to 3 pm, except for Christmas day when he will only visit once – from noon to 1 pm. This year, Santa will be giving out a certificate of good behavior to each child who visits him:
All year round Santa
Since 2017 you can actually visit Santa Claus at least one day a month EVERY MONTH of the year in the restaurant Metsa Ruaha on site. (Please note that this event has been suspended during the pandemic). Santa Claus joins you for lunch in this rare and popular event.
Christmas in Nasu
Apart from the opportunity to meet the real Santa, there are also some fun Santa photo spots around the area. Within Finland no Mori itself they have a Santa statue and wooden blocks painted as Santa. Not too far from Finland no mori, there is a shop were it is Christmas all year round; Christmas Town. Also nearby is the Teddy Bear Museum which we visited on the trip and some of the teddies are dressed up in Santa outfits and Olaf costumes. Near the Nasu highway exit we stopped at 661 street, which has a great display of Santa statues, including a Coca-Cola Santa at the Coke Store. Usually that store has a Santa visiting too. There were many places we passed on our journey that had Christmas decorations and winter illumination. There wasn’t time to investigate them all, but generally we felt Nasu had a nice Christmas atmosphere and Scandinavian feel and I certainly want to go back to investigate more. If you have anywhere you would like to recommend, please do not hesitate to comment.
We thoroughly absorbed the Christmas atmosphere in Nasu, Tochigi. We all came home with a little jingle in our steps! There were so many Santa photo spots, events and attractions throughout Nasu so driving around that area felt more like Christmas than anywhere else I have experienced in Japan. We will make the trip again this year.
Address: 2730-36 Takakuotsu, Nasu Tochigi 325-0303
Thanks to the completion of a new stretches of highway, Tochigi is very accessible from Saitama. It took us just under two hours to reach our first stop in Nasu on the Tohokudo expressway.