Wadokei Construction

Every part in the movement of a wadokei was hand-filed, and that is the reason the makers were not called “Tokei-ya” (clock makers) but “Tokei-shi” (Clock-smiths).

A Japanese clocksmith made all parts of a timepiece and specialization among craftsmen in regard to the production of single parts of timepieces did not develop in old Japan … it is generally believed that it took more than one year for a craftsman to produce a clock and it is said that some of the famous makers produced less than ten clocks during their lifetime.

As dials, ornamental pillars, and similar parts could not be made solely by hand, it is evident that an instrument such as a lathe was used. The figure opposite is from the illustrated JINRIN KUNMO ZUI published in 1690. The figure shows a tinsmith at work with a lathe. In 1851, Hisashige Tanaka (of Mannen Dokei fame) advertised that for his jimei-sho: “The body of the clock is made by lathe (senban), a device that I invented.” Hisashige was reputed at that time to have been the inventor of the lathe and also to have invented a lathe to turn an ellipse.


Designs of various clocks were exhibited in shops, and they were made in Nagasaki, Kyoto, Osaka, Yedo, Sendai, etc. ; but how far back the work of the clocksmith, as he was called, became a recognized craft does not appear; and the absence of signature and domicile leaves the matter in doubt.

In the 1830’s there were clocksmiths in different cities who produced clocks of novel shapes and of beautiful finishes. These hand-made clocks was an indication of the art and skill which the Japanese craftsman had attained.