In the 1980s, Robert Hirst helped pioneer yen swaps. For the last decade, he’s gotten to know Japanese investors intimately by trying to sell them hedge funds. Here is the sum of what he’s learned about Japan during his three decades in the country:
Japan loves “kawaii,” says Hirst, referring to the Japanese word for cute.
With that hard-won knowledge, Hirst is giving up the fool’s errand of trying to get the Japanese to get into hedge funds, which they have made pretty clear they don’t want to do. Instead, he’s bringing them what they want: Adorable anthropomorphic things. Specifically, adorable anthropomorphic Finnish things called Moomins, which Hirst suspects the Japanese may like even more than Pokémons.
“The Moomin people were trying to get someone to open a theme park in Japan, because Japan is such a big part of the Moomin business,” Hirst says. “I went to talk to our CEO and said we have this expression of interest in a Moomin theme park, and he said ‘Moomins! Wow, yes we should….’”
The round-snouted creatures, which live peacefully in Moominvalley and whose adventures always end happily, have spawned fan sites, shops and cafes where customers dine with big stuffed versions of their favorite characters. Some Japanese couples even travel to Helsinki to get married at the Moomin theme park, with Moominpappa carrying out the ceremony.
“Moomins hark back to a simpler time when life wasn’t all digital and high-speed,” Hirst said.