Japanese clocks at the Science Museum

pic 03 table clock

A trip to the Science Museum in London is one of our favourite family outings. However, looking past the steam trains and model tractors, there is at least one gallery that merits inclusion here: the exhibit Measuring Time, which includes a whole display on Japanese clocks.

Under the old Japanese system, periods of daylight and darkness were each divided into six intervals, with day and night hours being of different lengths. In many cases, the clocks are adjustable to reflect that these timings changed with the passing seasons. There is great variety in the timepieces on show: tall pillar clocks, imposing house clocks, smaller table clocks and bracket clocks. I especially enjoyed the decorative metalwork, which in some examples is highly ornate.  The clocks are behind glass, so apologies for the glare on some photos.

Measuring Time
Science Museum, London
Permanent display

Above: Table clock, Japanese or Chinese, 1800s. Science Museum. Photo: STF. This clock has both Arabic numerals and Chinese signs of the zodiac.

Below: Bracket clock, Japanese, 1800s. Science Museum. Photo: STF. This clock has a rotating dial with adjustable indicators.

pic 02 bracket clockBelow: House clock (exhibit 5), Japanese, 1800s. Science Museum. Photo: STF. This clock strikes the last two strokes in quick time, in imitation of the way that Japanese time signals were struck by hand.

pic 05 house clockBelow: Detail of house clock (exhibit 5), showing decorative metalwork. Science Museum. Photo: STF.

pic 05 house clock detailBelow: House clock (exhibit 11), Japanese, 1800s. Science Museum. Photo: STF.

pic 11 house clockBelow: Detail of house clock (exhibit 5), showing decorative metalwork. Science Museum. Photo: STF.

pic 11 house clock detail