Outside the entrance to Gifu Castle is an example of an early Japanese clock, known as a wadokei or daimyo-dokei. The first western style mechanical clock is said to have been brought to Japan by the Jesuit Francisco Xavier, who presented it to the feudal lord (daimyo) of present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1556.
The Japanese had their own clocks in the Edo Period (1603-1867) known as "Pillow Clocks" or "Wadokei". Wadokei were driven by the downward movements of weights, which turned a winding drum, which then rotated the hands of the clock via gears.
In Edo Period Japan, time corresponded to the position of the sun and a day was divided into 12 time periods: 6 for the day and six for the night. The 12 periods were named after animals, hence "hour of the dragon" (roughly six in the morning) and "hour of the cock" (eleven at night) and so on.
The large turret clock outside Gifu Castle was made by Japanese clock makers based on the western mechanism but featuring the animals of the Japanese zodiac.
Like this blog? Sign up for the JapanVisitor newsletter
Shin Fuji Kendama On Sale Tags