Nittele Big Clock: a Ghibli-inspired clock like no other

Who doesn’t love a performing clock, with various figurines that dance or move at appointed times throughout the day?  In Tokyo there are a number of such clocks, including the Marionette Clock at Ebisu Garden Place and the Mullion Musical Clock outside the Hankyu Men’s Store in Yurakucho.  But perhaps the busiest and most intricate of them all is the Nittele Big Clock outside the Nippon Television building near Shiodome Station in the Shimbashi area.

The whimsical clock was designed by Hayao Miyazaki of Ghibli fame, and includes shapes and figures redolent of his award-winning 2004 animated fantasy film, Howl’s Moving Castle.  One could spend hours just studying the intricacies of the clock, which stands 10 meters high and 18 meters wide.


Many of the clock’s features are strikingly similar to the moving castle of the film, with turrets, rails and even claw-footed legs.

As you study the clock, you can see mechanical men, some with lantern-shaped heads and others with bells for heads, that hammer, turn cog wheels, and make things go at those times of day when the clock chimes and performs (details below).

The labors of these figures appear to move other parts of the clock, especially two lifts on either side of the clock face.

Other moving parts of the clock include a cannon turret, a giant teapot, cog wheels, and a tiddly-wink medallion atop the clock face itself, the only colorful part of the entire mechanism.  Keep an eye on the two balls held by claw feet beneath the clock face, too.  During the performance they open and move to reveal some surprises.

The cannon turret also turns during the clock’s performance and even fires on the hour.  At the same time, a figure of a fish previously concealed behind doors bangs its tail on a gong.

The clock chimes and performs, complete with musical accompaniment, daily to announce 12 noon, 3 pm, 6 pm and 8 pm.  On week-ends, it also performs for 10 am.  The 8 pm performance is particularly enchanting because of the way in which the clock is lit up.  The chiming/performance begins from about 3 minutes before the hour, so be sure to arrive a bit before the hour.  It’s just a couple of minutes across a catwalk from Shiodome station on the Yurikamome line or about 7 minutes walk from JR Shimbashi station, past the Yurikamome line Shimbashi station.

© 2019 and Vicki L. Beyer
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