Wadokei Makers

Attempting to provide the names of Japanese clockmakers of the Edo Period is difficult for a native Japanese person yet alone for a non-Japanese speaking Scotsman. The following pages have been prepared to the best of my knowledge and crave your forgiveness for any errors. I am not aware of any similar list.  Reporting of any errors or omissions will be very welcome.

It was also quite common for young Japanese artisans to change their name throughout there career.

I thank MURAKAMI Kazuo– author of the book in English entitled “Japanese Automata – Karakuri Zuii” who has provided much assistance in compiling parts of this list. I am much indebted for his contribution as this work is often in a language that I neither speak nor write.

Family names are, where known or interpreted, in UPPER CASE.  Given Names and Titles are in lower case in the Japanese convention – SURNAME Given Name.

I am also indebted to the authors of many of the books from which I have extracted clockmakers’ names . See my web page of acknowledgements. Where identifiable, reference sources and page numbers are given in (brackets) on the following pages.

Japanese Clocksmiths (Tokei-shi)

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.

Map of Clockmaking Centres during Tokugawa Period