May 14

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Hey Look, It’s L o’ Clock!

WatchLoClock

And how lovely it is, displayed on my vintage restored Seiko!

It’s L o’clock, and that means it’s time to check out an old art that’s alive and well in Tokyo: watchmaking!

Actually, although I’d like you to believe I discover these things on purpose, the battery in my watch died and I was desperate to get it fixed. I’d met Akiyama-san at a year-end drinkfest, and I asked him if he did mundane things like that. Of course, he said, bring it in! So I did. And I discovered a fascinating kind of shop that you don’t often see in America anymore. In Japan, despite the fact that it’s one of the wealthiest societies in the world, people still try to repair things before throwing them away. Even cheap watches get repaired instead of tossed. (If you’ve ever seen the garbage regulations, you’ll understand why!)

And lest you think this is a dying craft practiced by wizened Gepetto look-alikes, let me assure you that so many people repair their watches instead of buying new ones, even young and handsome guys believe there’s a future for them in watchmaking!

Akiyama-san, in his shop, not looking like a grizzled watchmaker of yore.

Akiyama-san, in his shop, not resembling a grizzled watchmaker of yore.

He fixed my battery in no time flat, then I stayed to watch as Akiyama-san practiced the arcane art of putting a vintage watch back together. Wearing a jeweler’s loupe, he wielded tiny specialized tools to position each piece on a special mount, then started it up and adjusted it with an electronic timer before settling the works back in its case.

WatchFix

If you don’t have patience and a steady hand, do not apply!

WatchParts

Before visiting Akiyama-san’s shop, I never thought about the beauty that resides inside the thing on my wrist.

WatchTools

Tools from a bygone era, still used every day.

But although Akiyama-san will repair any watch that walks through the door, his real passion is restoring vintage watches and selling them. Check out these beauties!

WatchVintageIf you’d like to visit Akiyama-san’s shop the next time you’re in Tokyo, get off the Keio Line train at Gotokuji Station, turn right at the ticket gate and walk down the street lined with shops. About a block away on your left, you’ll spot a sign out on the sidewalk that says “L o’Clock.” turn left into the passageway and it’ll be ahead on your right. Or visit his L o’ Clock website to see what gems he’s got in stock. Open noon – 8:00 p.m., closed Thursdays, map here.

Jonelle Patrick is the author of the Only In Tokyo mystery series, now out for the first time in paperback!

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