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Feb. 11, Tue.

A Passion for Mechanical Magic - Aichi -

Inuyama Castle

400-year-old robot, "Tea-serving doll"

400-year-old Japanese clock reproduction

On this episode, an architect James Lambiasi travels to Inuyama City and Nagoya City in Aichi Prefecture, on a trip to discover the origin of the spirit of "making things" in Japan. In Aichi Prefecture, there are many companies known around the world, such as Toyota. For more than 30 years, the prefecture has been number-one in Japan for the total value of shipped products. And the foundation for that is found in the wooden robot "Karakuri Ningyo" or mechanized dolls of 400 years ago. The technology of Karakuri Ningyo has been enhanced from year to year, with a purpose of how to surprise viewers, and that process has brought about technology innovations in various fields, resulting in the manufacturing sector of Aichi today. On this trip, we learn about the spirit and values of "making things" passed on from old times to the current age in Japan.

Inuyama Castle
This castle has the oldest wooden castle tower in Japan. In principle, English-speaking and Korean language-speaking volunteer guides are available.

Karakuri Tenjikan
Karakuri Ningyo (mechanized dolls) used at festivals in Inuyama City, are displayed at this museum. On Friday and Saturday every week, a demonstration is performed by Karakuri Ningyo master, the 9th Tamaya Shobei.

Hot spring Inn: Hasshokaku Mizunowo
An inn located along the Kiso River, with a view of Inuyama Castle. Its pride is an open-air bath. Visitors for bath use only are also accepted from 11:30 a.m. -2:00 p.m. on weekdays.

TOYOTA Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
It's a museum for learning the history of Toyota's technology innovations. The game corner for children to play is also well arranged.

Japanese clockmaker: NALUSE
He is the only clockmaker in Japan, who makes and repairs gear-type clocks.

From Nagoya to Tokyo, it's about 1.5 hours by Shinkansen bullet train. After transferring to Nagoya Railroad, it takes about 30 minutes to Inuyama City.

Travel Log - Traveler:

Travel Log

Traveler:James Lambiasi, Architect (USA)
Date :Dec.13-16, 2013

As an architect practicing in Japan for over 20 years, I have worked with many Japanese carpenters and have always admired their diligence and craftsmanship. That is why I was so excited to travel in Japan and explore the 400 year old tradition of Karakuri mechanical dolls. By exploring this history, I believe one may have a clearer understanding of not just how the Japanese perceive craft, but how the process of craft may be seen to infuse life into inanimate objects.

To understand the roots of the Karakuri doll tradition, one should understand the history of Inuyama. This was a region of flourishing wealth and innovation where rich noblemen were able to sponsor more and more intricate mechanical dolls for entertainment. We also learned, on the other hand, that these were not just machines designed to entertain from the outside. The way in which the parts were put together relate directly to human movement, to the properties of natural materials and even to the changing of seasons; therefore this very acute attention to detail was a quest in itself for the craftsmen themselves to perfect their art. This is so very evident in the work of the several craftsmen that I met, each devoting their lives to beautiful detail the mechanics of dolls and contemporary clocks as well. A trip to the Toyota museum was also very enlightening, where the innovation that began with the Karakuri tradition led them to be one of the top car makers in the world.