Antique Clock Collecting: Foreign & Unique Clocks : Antique Clock Collecting: Japanese Clocks


We’re going to go halfway across the globe
for a minute to talk about Japanese clocks. The Japanese had clocks early on, Western
ones with came with the missionaries. But as you know, they then became a very closed
society, not allowing people or technology from the West. They did retain some of the
early clock technology, and applied it to their own system of time keeping, which…which
involved twelve hours. Six hours of daylight, six hours of…of night time, and as you can
imagine, those hours changed in length over the seasons. So they needed a system that
would reflect the time, according to the Japanese method, until eighteen-seventy-three, when
they converted to the Western system. We’re looking at a Japanese pillar clock here. This
is from around eighteen-fifty. This would’ve been hung on the pillar of a Japanese clock,
as you may know, a lot of Japanese homes of that time were wooden posts connected by rice-paper
walls. So this would’ve hung on one of those posts, ticking along here with the short pendulum,
sometimes called the cow-tail pendulum. And then, the clock is weight driven. The weight
has a pointer attached to it, which descends over the scale, pointing at the twelve hours,
each of which was named after an animal. So we have our time indicators here, they’re
on sliding…little sliding brass indicators that could be moved closer or farther apart
depending on the season and the length of the various hours of day and night, depending
on the season it was. These, I’ve been told, were regulated every two weeks or so, so that
everyone was pretty much on the same time. Of course, once Japan became Westernized and
modernized, they became a huge industrial power, and certainly, later in the twentieth
century, they were better known for all kinds of inexpensive time pieces, such as this travel
clock made in Japan. Again, nothing special, but something that was mass produced, able
to make it less expensively than they could in America. So, like many Japanese products
of that time, they became quite popular here. And now, of course, many of us wear Japanese
quartz watches, so the process continues, but a long way from these early….early weight
driven indicators of a different method of time keeping.

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