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Are you the sort of person who is enchanted by music boxes?

The Kawaguchiko Music Forest is a kind of mecca for those who find fascination in the melodic tinkling that lilts through the room when someone’s little sister opens her jewelry box.

It’s true that there aren’t too many trees at the Music Forest, although there is one rather large glass replica tree that’s a popular backdrop for visitors taking snapshots. But there is plenty of “music,” as long as your idea of music is the noise produced by a music box.

For those who do not have an affinity for music boxes, it might be helpful to delve into the history of these devices.

In the days before the invention of the MP3 player, compact discs, cassette tapes and even vinyl records, people who wanted to listen to tunes at home could either play it themselves or get hold of one of the contraptions on display at the Music Forest.

Nineteenth century house guests were no doubt amazed when the proud owner of a giant music box turned a crank and it started playing the La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

Dozens of these old machines — including automatic pipe organs, violins, pianos and banjos — are stored inside the old European-style buildings at the Music Forest in Yamanashi prefecture at the foot of Mount Fuji.

You can listen to them play in an auditorium, or even give one a crank yourself in the garden. Visitors can purchase a century-old antique music box at the museum’s shop, but be ready to shell out thousands of dollars. These things don’t come cheap.

If you are on a budget, the shop also sells plastic music boxes for less than $20.

A stroll around the museum’s gardens is a bit like being at Disneyland, except there aren’t any rides or performers dressed up like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

On the hour, a mechanical conductor pops out of the top of one of the buildings and conducts piped music while a large fountain spurts water in time. Kids will enjoy playing with a musical xylophone sculpture nearby.

The museum also features wine-tasting, a sweet shop, an ice cream shop and a coffee bar.

Those who crave the adrenaline rush of combat or extreme sports might not find much to feed their habit at the Music Forest.

However, if you are looking for a place to entertain family or musically inclined children, or you’re just looking for a pleasant spot to stop off for lunch and a coffee, Kawaguchiko Music Forest might be worth visiting.


Take the Chuo Expressway to the Kawaguchiko Interchange, then follow National Highway 137 towards Lake Kawaguchiko for about 15 minutes. Take a left on Route 21 after crossing a large bridge. The museum is on the left on the lakefront.


Adults: 1,300 yen; students: 800 yen.


The restaurant serves a roast beef lunch for 2,900 yen on the 29th day of each month. Desserts cost about 600 yen.


Open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (last entry from 5 p.m.)



author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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