The Adoption and Adaptation of Mechanical Clocks in Japan
This chapter examines the introduction and subsequent evolution of mechanical clocks in Japan. The mechanical clock was first brought by Jesuit missionaries as a gift to the rulers of Japan and China in the sixteenth century. After the prohibition of Christianity in Japan in the early years of the Tokugawa period, the clock evolved quite differently in the two countries. In China, increasingly elaborate Western clocks were either brought from the West or constructed in shops locally. In Japan, mechanical clocks were constructed exclusively by domestic craftsmen who modified them to indicate a seasonally variable system of hours. Although mechanical clocks were not owned and used widely, they were used by time-keepers at castles as well as at time-bell towers, to tell the time to city dwellers.