This Japanese Museum Actually Keeps Time

There are a lot of reasons to visit Matsumoto, a city at the foot of the Japanese Alps in the central prefecture of Nagano.

Most visitors head there to see the 16th-century castle, one of the oldest in the country, or to bathe in the natural hot springs. But few, even within Japan’s large community of watch fans, know that Matsumoto also is home to the Timepiece Museum, a three-level bright and airy exhibition space that displays about 120 of its 800 clocks at any given time.

According to the website of the Japan Clock and Watch Association, the museum has “one of Japan’s richest collections of antique clocks in motion so that visitors can enjoy the movement of pendulums and the sound of bells.” (And you should hear the racket when the clocks chime the hour.)

Indeed, what sets the museum apart is that many of its clocks work. “It’s quite rare for clock museums around the world,” said Shun Kobayashi, the museum’s curator.

The oldest clock in the collection is an hourglass dating from the 1400s, and the newest are recent Casio and Citizen timepieces. Not all were made in Japan; eight other countries, including France, Germany and China, are represented, too.

The museum’s initial collection of about 120 clocks was donated to the city in 1974 by Chikazo Honda, an engineer who was an enthusiastic clock collector.

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