|

Making good time: Museums in Tokyo offer timepieces of history

by Yoshiaki Miura

Staff Photographer

As the old saying goes, “Time is money” — and each June 10 helps Japan remember that.

The date, known as “toki no kinenbi”(the anniversary of time), commemorates what is believed to be Japan’s introduction of standard time on June 10, 671, when the nation’s first water clock based on Chinese technology was put into use by Emperor Tenji (626-672).

During the Taisho Era push to catch up with the West and improve the quality of life, the government in 1920 designated June 10 as the anniversary of the monumental shift that helped make Japanese some of the most punctual people in the world.

Clues to the significance of the date may be found at the Seiko Museum in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, which showcases generations of timepieces brought from overseas and those made by the famous watch maker.

Founded in 1981 and renovated in 2012, the museum offers displays on the history of the nation’s technological developments in precision timekeeping. Exhibits include those on timepieces with mechanical movements, quartz movements, traditional Japanese clocks and Seiko’s corporate history.

Visitors can also try out a precision touch-panel time-measuring device used to hold international swimming competitions.

For tourists, a free English service is available by making reservations in advance (call 03-3610-6248).

The areas surrounding the museum are also known for the numerous businesses involved in preserving and repairing old watches and clocks.

At 88, the man known as “the master who repaired Emperor Showa’s table clock” remains active in his own business refurbishing timepieces in Kameido in Koto Ward.

As an honorary member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Shuji Muroi also repairs timepieces at the Tokyo National Museum.

In nearby Taito Ward is the Daimyo Clock Museum, which showcases clocks owned by daimyo in the Edo Period (1603-1868). Items on display include 88 cultural assets as designated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

This section, appearing on the first Monday of each month, offers a snapshot view of areas that may interest tourists.