Feel the mesmerizing enchantment of the tiny worlds within snow globes... From the wonderful collection of the "Snow Dome Museum" in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

A Snow Globe’s Soothing Microcosm

Unless you live in a cosily warm region, you might have seen snow fall this year, or even a blizzard! Despite their imminent danger, here are some we are willing to shake up in all seasons: As many as 400 fascinating snow globes are resting in the Snow Dome Museum, also known as Room 109 of the Ikejiri Institute of Design (IID) in Tokyo. Each of those contains a sparkling and magical miniature world. And there surely is no such thing as kitsch, have a little imagination, please! For today, PingMag invites you to have a closer look with the help of Yasuaki Imai of the Japan Snow Dome Association that runs the museum.

Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi Yamane

First, how was the Snow Dome Museum founded?

Soon after the IID was established in 2004, the Snow Dome Association received a request by the IID to found this museum. The Snow Dome Association aims to introduce the beauty of snow globes to children, so IID’s ideals of renovating an old school building and working on local community-based activities fit that of the association’s perfectly. That’s how we came to open this museum in our current location.


You love the Big Apple AND cabs? Even better!.

For sure, there must be snow in Hawaii too.

This snow globe of Paris could be mistaken for an alarm clock. How cute!

Another precious example containing lost, sunken (plastic) sculptures of ancient times.

Snow globes remain a popular collectors’ item all over the world. How many have you gathered here?

We have about 400 pieces displayed in this museum, but there are around 5,000 snow globes in our warehouse. Most of them were kindly donated by people who identify with our ideas.


A little reindeer stops to rest under snowy pine trees…

… and an angel hovers over a glitzy Christmas tree commemorating the holidays as well.

Globes take on all shapes: a treasure chest shaped souvenir from Los Angeles.

And a triangular shaped dome with a rather prehistoric motif.

Incidentally, is it true that the snow globes first appeared at the Paris Universal Expo in 1889?

That’s right. That year was also the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution and the Eiffel Tower was built to mark the celebration. At the time, dome-shaped globes containing water, white flakes, a doll of a man holding an umbrella and the Eiffel Tower were sold at the Expo, which is considered to be the first snow globe! Perhaps it became universal after visitors took the idea back to their hometowns.

Elegant blue and gold: a series of forget-me-nots from Paris.

There are so many different types of snow globes, can you give us a few examples?

Best known must be the Christmas snow domes and the ones for souvenirs. There is also a variety of series featuring animals and stories such as Snow White and The Little Prince, or ones with characters from Disney and Snoopy, too. Furthermore, there are some snow globes with historical backgrounds as themes, for example, some made soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall or more satirical ones with black snow flakes to show the environmental pollution.


A calendar and monkey toy in one!

Look! An uncannily realistic buffalo away from his herd.

A popular character snow globe featuring Curious George…

… and a hardly frightening Halloween version with our favourite Winnie the Pooh.

An auspicious looking very red example with Chinese characters wishing a “Lifelong Peace.”

Oh, a cherub turned upside down!

From the romantic series: a wedding cake that will never be eaten.

Also from the romantic series, a globe perched on fluffy feathers with a dancing couple.
A globe series each featuring a member of the band. You need to get the whole set!

What a fancy Yellow Submarine! The Beatles are proud, we are sure.

Does it really snow on other planets? Obviously something from a Roswell souvenir store.

You also organise workshops here…?

Yes, snow globe lovers often feel that they want to make their own motif as well! So even though it’s still a tentative approach for all of us at the Snow Dome Museum, we basically organise bimonthly workshops mainly for kids. For that, we use Photo Dome kits to produce domes easily and pretty quickly. We also have one day experience courses at Setagaya Ward Office. Moreover, other galleries are displaying snow globes as well as culture schools.


”The Bremen Town Musicians” as silhouettes – created at the workshop using the theme of the Brother Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Also from the workshop, a series on animals.

The making of snow globes! From the workshop.

A part of the snow dome collection on display at the museum.

One final question: Why do you think so many people are fascinated by the snow globes?

Because of its healing power, perhaps. Many people are looking for a moment of comfort and you can find it inside these snow globes. Watching the soothing little worlds can make you feel peaceful and contented:

A short healing moment for you, beloved readers, too! A snow dome with a built-in music box and fluttering flakes of shimmering coloured papers.

Mr. Imai, thank you for your time today. You people around the Tokyo area, how about a visit at this cute Snow Dome Museum?! There are so many more snow globes. Or else, how about a workshop?

  • http://lynnandhorst.blogspot.com horst

    i want the one with the dinosaur

  • Lalou

    Loved the article! I had a small collection way back when and even made one following a Martha Steward “recipe” that I absolutely loved! They’re kitsch at its finest!

  • Naomi

    Wooow….I love that Beatles & Winnie the Pooh snow globe!!

  • Mike

    I like the one about Curious George :) The Las Vegas one is hilarious! I didn’t think that the music actually when with a city so up beat.

  • http://catamuda.blogdrive.com catamuda

    i love the one with the dinosaur, monkey and beatles

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    Love your collection! We have many unique globes too-

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  • http://tia_no_egao@yahoo.com tiya

    hey the one with curious george is so cute! ^_^

  • Noni
  • Tinky

    I like snowdomes.com for vintage snow shakers.

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