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Visiting the Magnificent Musical Clock in Japan- Discovering the Mystery of the Moving Parts

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

People are fascinated with all kinds of gadgets floating around in the intellectual markets. From the newest iphones to the latest computers to the brand new watches, influxes of people desperately find ways to acquire these hot items.  In fact, people are willing to take out loans, work three jobs, and even sell some assets to obtain new and innovative gadgets. That is just the technological age we live in. However, as we cascade through time, we can be freshly reminded of the creativity of gadgets and clocks in the past. As we deeply reflect upon the Victorian era, for instance, we can be reminded of the significant progression and advancement of technology.

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It is during the Victorian era that the designing and creating of unique and sophisticated clocks are recognized. Clocks and watches are an intrinsic part of this era. Some of the popular clocks during this time period include brass and carriage clocks. The latter clocks were usually taken on a trip to help the travelers keep track of time.

Captivated by this era, you can take yourself back into the Victorian era when you visit the giant sophisticated musical clock in Japan. Officially named as the “Nittele Oodokei (Nippon Television’s Big Clock),” or “Ghibli clock,” (as it has been dubbed), the Victorian like mechanical cuckoo clock located in Shiodome, Tokyo, Japan, is positioned directly in front of the Nippon Television Tower. Measuring an astounding 18 meters wide and 3 stories tall (10 meters), the gigantic clock is overlaid with 28 tons of steel and copper. Interestingly, the clock performs over 30 animated and vivacious mechanical moves 4 times a day—(1) 12:00 p.m., (2) 3:00 p.m., (3) 6:00 p.m., and (4) 8:00 p.m., from Monday to Friday. The clock also actively performs 5 times of day on Saturday and Sunday- (1) 10:00 a.m., (2) 12:00 p.m., (3) 3:00 p.m., (4) 6:00 p.m.., and (5) 8:00 p.m.

The uniquely decorated and extremely detailed features of the clock are undoubtedly impressive. The giant clock consists of a diversity of moving parts: (1) a wheel spinner, (2) boiling teapot, (3) three lantern men, (4) 1 pair of claws, (5) 2 dragon like feet, (6) 1 clock, (7) 2 canons, (8) 2 bell-headed piston crankers, (9) doors, (10) 2 balls grasped by the claws, (11) windows, (12) elevators, (13) a rotating wheel, (14) blacksmiths, (15) a sun, and (16) a small cuckoo clock.

Here is how the clock performs. From the start, the face of the clock begins to operate, while tin men move into position to work. At this time you can hear the sound of music. Suddenly, a door swings open and then it instantly shuts. This process is repeated throughout the entire show. Next, a flame created by 2 blacksmiths appears and it steadily ascends and descends. Above the two blacksmiths is a tin man physically rotating a wheel. To the far left of the clock on the opposite side is a tin man with an upside down like pail or thimble on his head. He is bending his knees and moving up and down. Every time the man moves, the pail jingles. While this event is transpiring, two canons positioned on the top of the clock alter their positions as they gradually move from left to right and up and down. Within several seconds, all the mechanical parts including the clock hand move simultaneously keeping yourself glued to the show.

At the close of the show, a pair of sharp like claws holding two balls begins to gradually move. Unexpectedly, both balls open. The ball on the right discloses a diminutive cuckoo clock, while the ball on the left reveals a sun. That completes the show.

Overall, the mechanical clock show was outstanding. There is certainly a mystery concerning each of the moving parts. The moving parts portray the Victorian era, but it is difficult to ascertain what each of the parts actually signify. This mystery is especially true with the small cuckoo clock and sun tucked inside the balls that are held by the claws. Nevertheless, the musical clock is very impressive and brilliantly designed.

The creator and founder of this magnificent masterpiece and the Studio Ghibili is the famous Hayao Miyazaki. The six year project of the musical clock erected by Kunio Shachimaru was publically displayed on December 20, 2006. This amazing artwork is evocative of the popular 2004 filmハウルの動く城 Howl’s Moving Castle, which was produced around the same time frame as the clock. However, the argument that Miyazaki constructed the clock based upon the movie cannot be corroborated.

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