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!
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.
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!
If 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.
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!