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Otaru Music Box Museum: Hokkaido's Fairytale-Like World of Music Boxes

Otaru Music Box Museum: Hokkaido's Fairytale-Like World of Music Boxes

Date published: 27 August 2020
Last updated: 18 January 2021

The Otaru Music Box Museum is a popular sightseeing attraction in Otaru. Out of its seven stores across Otaru, we will introduce how you can spend an enjoyable time at three of them: the Otaru Orgel Doh Main Building, the Antique Museum in Hall Number 2, and the Handicraft Studio Yō-kōbō.

What is the Otaru Music Box Museum All About?

The Otaru Music Box Museum ("Otaru Orgel Doh" in Japanese) is Japan’s largest music box store. Approximately 25,000 music boxes of 3,400 different kinds are available in just the main building alone.

If you walk along Sakaimachi Street away from Otaru Canal, you will reach an intersection with a solid stone building. That building is the main building of the Otaru Music Box Museum.

This building was constructed in 1912 as the main office for a rice merchant. Ever since Otaru Orgel Doh was established here in 1989, the museum has seen crowds of tourists from various countries worldwide, becoming an internationally well-known sightseeing attraction.

On 29 March 1989, it was designated as a historical building by Otaru City. The decorated ceiling and handrails, as well as the corridor on the second floor, have been left untouched in their initial conditions.

The lit-up Orgel Doh building at night looks amazing in photographs!

First, Let’s Head to the Main Building!

First, Let’s Head to the Main Building!

Let’s start with the main building. Something you definitely would not want to miss is the steam clock standing gallantly before the building entrance. This steam clock symbolizes the Otaru Music Box Museum and is the largest steam clock in the world, measuring 5.5 meters in height, 1 meter in width, and 1.5 tonnes in weight.

Otaru Orgel Doh’s steam clock was constructed by Mr. Raymond Sanders, a Canadian clockmaker who also made the world’s first steam clock.

The steam clock here is made of bronze and is of the same shape as steam clocks in Vancouver, Canada. Powered by the steam generated in the boiler, the five steam whistles at the top of the steam clock produce a melody comprised of five musical scales every 15 minutes. Have your camera ready in hand for that moment when steam is released from the clock!

Upon entering the building, you will be greeted with the sight of numerous music boxes. The area right after the entrance is where many types of cute music boxes are lined up, including jewel cases and egg-shaped jewelry boxes. Visitors are instantly transported to a magical, fairytale-like world.

The “Orgel Doh Steam Clock” (4,180 yen; tax-inclusive) is an original music box by Otaru Orgel Doh. Memorialize your visit to Otaru Music Box Museum by bringing the mini steam clock back home with you!

Some of these music boxes have been designed with Japanese culture as the theme in mind. There is even one of famous ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai’s Red Fuji (1,980 yen; tax-inclusive).

As you proceed further inside, you will enter a large hall with a high ceiling. This is the most extensive section of Orgel Doh, centered on the theme of “amusement.” This hall is filled with a wide range of music boxes made of different materials, including glass, wood, ceramic, carousel-shaped ones, and music box stuffed toys.

Popular Music Boxes

●Glass Angel Music Box
The Glass Angel Music Box (2,750 yen; tax-inclusive) is one of Otaru Orgel Doh’s popular items and is an excellent gift option.

Be careful when browsing this product as it is fragile

The Glass Angel Music Box comes in many variations, such as dome-shaped types and slender ones. Do check out the various kinds of these angel music boxes.

A slender version of the angel music box (3,300 yen; tax-inclusive)

Sushi-shaped Music Box

Lined up on this round table are sushi-shaped music boxes! The Sushi Music Box (2,850 yen; tax-inclusive) is another original item by Otaru Orgel Doh and also very popular. The sushi replicas on these music boxes look so real you could almost eat them. These music boxes are incredibly unique as the sushi replica will spin around when the music box sounds.

Pick your favorite sushi topping!

●Maneki-neko Music Box

These music boxes come in the shape of the maneki-neko, a fortune cat that is believed to bring good luck. All these music boxes may look the same, but actually they have a different face painted on each of them. So search for your favorite maneki-neko among them!

Get the best of both worlds with this music box that has both the maneki-neko and the steam clock

●Music Box Stuffed Toys

As you move further in on the first floor, you will find lots of stuffed toys around. It should be no surprise that these are music boxes too!

Here, we have a tiger stuffed toy named “Kotarō.” At first glance, it looks just like a typical stuffed toy, but when you wind “Kotarō” up, the music box within will release a melody.

Not only is “Kotarō” cute, it seems to have the ability to make us feel better!

Take Some Awesome Photographs from the Second Floor!

Take Some Awesome Photographs from the Second Floor!

Go onto the second floor via the stairs, and you will notice a corridor that grants you a view of the displays on the first floor. With light reflecting off all the intricate music boxes, the sparkly first floor looks simply ethereal. Photography is allowed in Orgel Doh’s premises, so go ahead and take some fairytale-like shots! The large maneki-neko, in particular, makes a great subject as the focus for photographs. Visitors who would like to be captured in their commemorative shots can approach the staff for help.

Customize Your Own Music Box on the Third Floor!

On the third floor, you can select a song and a box of your choice to create your own personalized music box! There are lots to choose from, including wall-mounted music boxes, hand crank music boxes and rotating ones.

The steps of the ordering process are written here on the panels in foreign languages as well
Pick a song you like from among the music samples here
There are lots of designs of music boxes to choose from too

Once you have decided on the melody and box design, place an order with the staff. The final product will be a music box that is uniquely yours!

Besides accepting customized orders for music boxes, the third floor also offers small Japanese style accessories, including magnets in the shape of Japanese sweets (258 yen; tax-inclusive) and sushi key holders (418 yen; tax-inclusive).

Our Next Destination is Hall Number 2!

Next up is the “Otaru Orgel Doh Hall Number 2 Antique Museum,” where historical music boxes are exhibited. The museum is a 1-minute walk from the main building and is home to a wide variety of products – approximately 8,000 of 830 different types!

The stretch that the store is on is filled with the melodies of music boxes

Something you should keep your eye out for here is definitely the Aeolia Pipe Organ comprising of 690 pipes. Made in England in 1908, this is an antique organ with more than 100 years of history.

In addition to the Aeolia Pipe Organ, visitors can get to listen to many antique music boxes in Hall Number 2, such as player pianos, cylindrical music boxes, and automatons during the Antique Orgel Concert.

This takes place six times a day and begins with an explanation by the staff, followed by 15 minutes of performance time. Different music boxes are showcased each time, so it is recommended that you come by multiple times to listen to the various performances.

Cat lovers will find these mechanical cat dolls irresistibly charming!

You can also customize your personal music box in Hall Number 2. Each step of the process is so much fun!

  • Otaru Orgel Doh Hall Number 2 Antique Museum
    小樽オルゴール堂 2号館アンティークミュージアム
    • Address 6-13, Sakaimachi, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0027
    • Phone Number 0134-34-3915
    • Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and eves of Public Holidays only in summer)
      Closed: None

Make Your Own Music Box at the Handicraft Studio!

Make Your Own Music Box at the Handicraft Studio!

If you want a more hands-on experience, visit the Handicraft Studio Yōkōbō, located near the main building. Here, you will get to try your hand at making elaborate music boxes. The courses available are of varying degrees of difficulty, so you can choose to create decorations or go for the full experience by assembling your own music box from scratch.

The most popular is the “Topping Free Course,” which allows participants to pick a music box base, a melody, and decorations of their choice from among the items available at the store. There are 150 songs you can choose from. You are free to decorate your music box with glass accessories and figurines to create your very own one-of-a-kind music box!

Many music boxes to choose from, including hand-crank types, spherical kinds, and transparent ones!

For those who wish to work on something more intricate, the “Movement Assembly Course” allows participants to assemble a music box from scratch. Participants are required to be at least middle school age and above. Reservation for the class has to be done online beforehand as well.

Some courses require prior reservations while others do not, so please check the official website for important information on the various courses before coming down to the Handicraft Studio.

Movement Assembly Course

Make Your Original Music Box at the Otaru Orgel Doh Music Box Shop!

From Sapporo, take the train bound for Otaru on the JR Hakodate Main Line and alight at Minami-Otaru Station. Otaru Orgel Doh is a 7-minute walk from Minami-Otaru Station.

If you are going by car from Sapporo, head onto National Route 5 or the Sasson Expressway (toll fee applies). Alight at Otaru IC if you are taking the expressway. The Otaru Music Box Museum does not have a designated parking space, so please use the coin parking lots nearby.

If you take the JR train route, you will be able to look at the sea from a close distance! Enjoy a relaxing train ride while looking out at the sea as part of your journey to the Otaru Music Box Museum.

As the main building, Hall Number 2, and Music Box Shop are all within walking distance of one another, you could check out the other stores while waiting for the next antique music box performance in Hall Number 2 to start. Take a stroll along Otaru’s nostalgic streets and enjoy the atmosphere created by the melodies of Orgel Doh’s music boxes.

  • Otaru Orgel Doh Group Music Box Shop
    小樽オルゴール堂 遊工房
    • Address 1-1-5, Irifune, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0021
    • Phone Number 0134-21-3101
    • Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and eves of Public Holidays only in summer)
      Closed: None

Text by:minna no kotoba sha

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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