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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Osaka Station City Fountain Clock

Water based timekeeping wizardry; 大阪ステーションシティ

It turns out that in the Japanese city of Osaka, a water fountain isn't just a place to go in the office for a catch up on the gossip from the weekend, or from the latest office party, or to discuss who's wearing what, it's also a place to head to when you are late for a train, heading out for a night on the tiles, or simply when you can't locate your phone in the depths of the pit that is your handbag.

Osaka Station City Fountain Clock, Japan


The city of Osaka's main train station, the aptly named Osaka Station City is just one part of a bigger development complex, and much more than just a railway station.

Built in two sections, North and South (original, eh?!) the station also incorporates a shopping center, roof terraces with healing gardens, and of course, entertainment, think lunchtime karaoke, conveyor belt sushi and that infamous Japanese feline, Hello Kitty.

A whopping 2,343,727 passengers pass through this station per day, and every single one of them will have, at some point, stopped to check the time on the station's water fountain.

I am one of those people. What looks like a simple black rectangular wall, is in fact a clock, a clepsydra fountain clock, a word derived from Greek meaning 'Water Thief'.

It's an all singing, all dancing, get out your Casio 1980s watch, digital-style time readout, clock. As the Greek name proves, a clock made of water isn't anything new, but this one, invented by a local company, is a fascinating piece of technical wizardry, and it left me gobsmacked, asking how do they do that?

Osaka Station City Fountain Clock, Umeda


Well, I'll tell you. Cleverly reproducing images and designs stored on a pc, a digital printer ejects droplets of water instead of ink, in exquisitely controlled patterns, with timings the Shinkansen could run to, to produce the final result; a waterfall of digitally displayed time, flowers, music notes, leaves, trees and, of course, actual waterfalls.

The clock displayed the time three times per minute before getting on with its mesmerizing, hypnotic imagery routine, meaning that 90% of the time, the clock isn't actually telling the time, it's simply entertaining passers-by. It's more Swan Lake than throwing shapes on the dance floor, though. I watched one body of water form music notes that flowed into flowers, leaves that combined with waterfalls, all the while resisting the urge to throw a few Yen in and make a wish.

And, as if it's not enough that the time is displayed, the clock fountain also displays the temperature, so the decision to go for a real latte or the iced version, was pretty much made for me, in one gushing message.

Fountains of the World by James Finlayson


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