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KAWAGUCHI-KO MUSIC FOREST MUSEUM

Animated dolls, singing birds in cages in Yamanashi

by Chiho Iuchi

The Kawaguchi-Ko Music Forest Museum in Yamanashi Prefecture is currently holding an exhibit through November 18 from its own collection of animated dolls (automata) and singing mechanical bird boxes.

Though their origins date back to Ancient Greece, automata crafted by Europe’s finest watchmakers in the 18th and 19th centuries were viewed as mechanical works of art and are considered by some to be antecedents of the modern computer. One such craftsman was the Swiss-born watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz, known for his three automata The Musician, The Draughtsman and The Writer (the latter comprised of some 6,000 pieces).

Jaquet-Droz was also the first to build singing mechanical birds (often in hanging cages or boxes), which caught the eye of European high society. On display as part of this exhibition are 24 automata and eight singing mechanical birds from the 19th century.

The Kawaguchi-Ko Music Forest Museum was established in 1999 next to Lake Kawaguchi, one of the Fuji Five Lakes near Mount Fuji. The museum is built in the style of a residence of medieval European nobility. Visitors to the exhibition will also be able to roam the rose garden, with its 550 varieties of roses in bloom at this time of year.

The exhibition takes place at Kawaguchi-Ko Music Forest Museum, 3077-20 Kawaguchi, Fuji Kawaguchikocho, Minami-Tsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture (9 a.m.-5:30 p.m; tel. [0555] 20-4111). The museum is a 16-minute taxi ride from Kawaguchi-Ko Station on the Fuji Kyuko Line (2 hours from JR Shinjuku Station via Otsuki Station on the Chuo Line).

Admission is 1,300 yen. The museum is giving five pairs of tickets away to readers of The Japan Times. To apply, send a postcard stating your name, address, contact number, age and a comment on The Japan Times’ Weekend Scene pages to: Gakugei-bu, The Japan Times, 4-5-4 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023 (deadline June 18).