This Giant Mile-Long Forest Xylophone Plays Bach When You Roll A Ball Down It

Visitors to the Daisetsu Mori-no garden can buy a wooden ball and roll it down a giant mile-long xylophone and listen to the notes in perfect tempo to Bach’s Cantata 147.

Music is magical and healing, it mesmerizes us and soothes our senses. However, being able to enjoy nature while listening to Bach and playing his Cantata 147 on a massive musical instrument is a completely unique experience, you must agree!

Around six years ago, visitors to the Hokkaido forest, located on the second-largest island of Japan’s northernmost prefecture, were able to marvel at the giant xylophone in the middle of the forest at the Daisetsu Mori-no garden.

Anyone who released a wooden ball down on the amazing, mile-long musical instrument would hear the fascinating notes of Bach’s Cantata 147, also known as ’Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’’ or simply as ‘’Joy’’.

The giant xylophone is a creation of Morihiro Harano, then a creative director of Drill Inc., a Japanese adverting agency.

It was built in 2011 as part of an ad campaign for Japanese telecom NTT DoCoMo’s launch of their wood encased, bean-shaped, Touch Wood SH-08C device. The device was made from wood from trees that have been chopped down from overgrown forests in Japan.

The xylophone was built in Daisetsu Mori-no garden in the middle of the forest and raised off the ground by pillars.

Harano worked with carpenter and wood engineer Mitsuo Tsuda, sound engineer Kenjiro Matsuo, and a team of carpenters.

With the help of natural gravity, when a small wooden ball travels down a line of small wooden plates, it generates each note in perfect tempo to Bach’s cantata.

Although it looks simple, the instrument was complicated to construct, as accuracy was of the utmost importance since just one note out of time would ruin the tempo.

As soon as Harano got the idea of a rectilinear xylophone, he wanted no gimmicks, just a “straight line in the forest,” with no computer graphics.

He explained:

’’The finish of the xylophone itself became an art work, so we only put an effort into making the scene–the xylophone playing the music–as real as possible. 

It was a very hard project to realize, but the skills of Japanese craftsmen are just impressive. They not only made it more accurate than the blueprints but also created a visually beautiful xylophone.”

Harano added:

“At first, we were imagining more complicated and faster-paced music, like Turkischer Marsch. However, due to the structure of the xylophone, we noticed that it was better to choose music that had the same length of notes, and so we decided to choose Bach’s Cantata.

We worried a little that the choice might be a little too literal, but looking back, it was a necessary choice to achieve the viewer’s empathy for the wooden sphere.”

The film was released on the website on March 11, 2011, the same day Japan was hit by disaster, an earthquake and a tsunami. Due to this, the client canceled the campaign.

Yet, Facebook users loved the film, and it started trending after being featured on the page of a New York Times Magazine’s blog editor. Soon, it went viral on social media, and Japanese television started to broadcast it repeatedly.

Later, the giant xylophone was relocated to the Daisetsu Mori-no garden, within the famous Hokkaido Garden.

On sunny days, visitors of Daisetsu Mori-no garden can purchase a wooden ball and release it to produce the popular Bach’s cantata.



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