Otaru Art Base: Stained Glass Museum ステンドグラス美術館(旧高橋倉庫)

While on my walk through Otaru on my way to the ice cream shop I walked past a museum saying it was a stained glass museum. At first I thought, nah I don’t need to go to a museum today, but my curiosity was peaked and I realized I’d wonder what it was like if I didn’t go. I mean how does one even make a stained glass museum? It wasn’t like all the windows were stained glass from the outside. Did it have just a whole bunch of stained glass in cabinets and talk about the different styles and how it’s done? It’s something I’ve been forever curious about, especially since at one point or another my dad used to make stained glass pieces.

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There’s actually a couple stained glass and glass museums on Otaru. A ton of art museums too. Which makes sense since it’s famous for glassblowing and glass arts. The one I went to was in the former Takahashi Warehouse and is part of the Otaru Art Base which includes 4 buildings that use to be former powerhouses of commerce in Otaru and Hokkaido, one of which is now a cafe and two are art museums, all with interesting architecture. You can even get a ticket that includes all of them at a discount if you’re curious and want to see them all. The other art museum is Nitori Museum of Art in a former bank with the Louis Tiffany stained glass gallery on the first floor, Japanese Modern paintings, Western paintings and sculptures, wood sculptures, and art nouveau and art deco glass and sculptures spread out on the other floors.

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The one I went to was built in 1923 by Naoharu Takahashi and it stored soybeans and adzuki beans. Those are sweet red beans that are used as a filling in some pastries and desserts. Now it houses two stories of stained glass art, most of which look like they’d fit in at a church, which makes sense since they’re from the 19th/20th century England and came from churches. (They’re from the same time period as the building itself. Just from a very far away place.)

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There are 140 stained glass pieces from England. It’s pretty impressive and a bit shocking when you go in and don’t know that before time. I was in a mind set of I’m in Japan, in a seaside town that is famous for glass, this must be all local art. Only to be like wow, this is a lot of religious art in European style, must all be one artist. But no, they’re all rescued from torn down churches.

It’s really cool to walk around and look at the stained glass. I don’t think I’ve ever seen some place focus solely on stained glass and with such attention to displaying it. Usually it’s art found in a building and is some sort of window so you have to usually look up and hope the light is coming through to enjoy the full effect. But all of these are in a dim museum and back lit so they always have ample light shining through. And you walk fairly close up to them. On the second floor (there is an elevator or you can take stairs) they go through the supplies and steps in which these were made. I thought it was very cool to see how an artist might go about planning a piece and then looking at the tools.

Another fun thing was that the roof and the walls are all wooden and when glancing up I saw a sign.

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Apparently some sparrows had made a nest in the rafters and their eggs had just hatched. Rather than trying to shoo them out the museum instead was trying to coexist and warn people to not be concerned if the birds started chirping or if they heard noises. However, this also means, whether they know it or not, that this is going to be a new yearly problem depending on the sparrows. I grew up with sparrows that would live in our barn, and every year everyone returned to their nests, which meant all the kids piled into the same nest that they were babies in with their parents and you’d just see these crammed and cramped nests as everyone tried to share the same one before eventually making their new ones for their babies.

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I had a lot of fun walking around the Stained Glass Museum. It’s really done in a way I’ve never seen a museum done before. The Stained Glass Museum tickets (for only this museum) are about 700 yen.  The museum is open from 9:30am until 5pm. They stop selling tickets at 4:30pm.

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2 thoughts on “Otaru Art Base: Stained Glass Museum ステンドグラス美術館(旧高橋倉庫)

  1. Hello – we’ve just viewed the stained glass museum and it is a beautiful display, and as you wrote quite surprising. We also expected local art. I understand that the works were rescued from England but do you know more of the story? All I could find was a quote on the website “by a strange twist of fate”. Were the windows from churches destroyed in WW2? If so when and how did they end up in a far away fishing town?

    Andrew

    1. Hello Andrew. I’m currently in the process of getting a friend’s help to e-mail the company and see if I can find out. Once I know I will update the post and let you know. It’s something I’m also very curious about.

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