All the money and guns

I (finally) wrote a new article at Néojaponisme: The solar calendar, the two Ms, and Fukuzawa Yukichi. It is about the remarkably sudden adoption of the solar calendar over the Meiji 5−6 new year, and about Fukuzawa Yukichi being kind of a jerk about it. As usual.

Popularity factor: 10


Not everyone believes it was about the Benjamins... (although the calendar is just the prelude to Tanaka's interest in how intellectuals understand time, by which I mean history).

Meanwhile, I love how the contemporary Takashima-reki companies tend to mention the reform on their websites, and how it made people 不満足, which is why you should still shell out some yen for their 運勢暦.


Wow, by the way, looking at that decree? It's written as if 刻 were understood as 定時刻, not 不定時刻, which is supposedly what everyone was using in ol' Edo town. (Except, I'm assuming, the astronomers, because astronomical calculations like standardized time.)


I haven't read Tanaka's book, but while I agree that the change would have happened at some point even without direct monetary advantage involved (due to europeanization, industrialization, etc.), he'd need to show a very strong alternative reason for the change happening right then, with almost no notice, just in time to save the cash-strapped government a little cash, if he expects me to believe the benjamins weren't involved in the timing.

And if it's true that there used to be twice as many days off, I for one am 不満足!


My personal opinion is that the calendar change was also driven by the newfangled concept of time as implemented in Western clocks, and the abandoning of the zodiacal hours scheme. And you only mentioned clocks briefly in the very last sentence!


Without the fantastically overcomplex system of zodiacal hours, there would have been no need for this kindai Antikythera mechanism:


But that does, at the same time, prove that telling time the old fashioned way was much too complex for the needs of the Meiji era.


Hm, I don't really buy the idea that abandoning hours leads to a new calendar. The day is a very basic unit and you can reorganize what's in it to make more sense without reorganizing how days themselves are organized. (On the other hand, it does make sense that if you're going to do one you might as well do the other -- I just believe that the calendar was the main goal, and they were like "oh btw let's fix the clock too" as an afterthought.)

And wow, that.. DEVICE is totally boss. I wonder why they were (reportedly) unable to reproduce some of the parts. Like what specific tools or techniques were unavailable to them, and whether it was a literal "no one can do it any more" issue or a "well, we could machine a tool for that but it would cost a squillion yen" issue.


I don't buy that the new hours required a new calendar either. Because they did already have standardized double-hours--it's just they were only used by specialists in Edo as far as I know. (And by everybody who had access to the court timekeeping system in Kyoto back in Heian times, as well--lord knows how the peasants told they needed to be up at the double-hour of the dog knew what time it was, however. Other methods of time-telling apparently involved astronomy, going by an offhand mention of Fujiwara no Munetada's.)

I'm going to hit Okada's 明治改暦 book once the library front desk opens again tomorrow, and see what he has to say about things. (As I was going to hit it anyway.)

(It is an awesome clock. There are slightly less awesome clocks at the Daimyō clock museum in Yanaka, too. But they won't adjust the length of hours for you automatically.)


I just got Okada's book out of the library myself, spurred by these threads. RESEARCH RACE!


Gotten around to the Okada yet? (He seems to have a variation on the money theory which is in part derived from the sudden realization that, oh crap! Next year is a leap year with a whole extra month! At least according to one other work of his I read last weekend.

And man, that Okada writes a lot of books about calendars.)


Yeah, I'm reading it now (I skipped ahead to the part about the week for today's post).

The realization of next year being the issue is the main point, as far as I can tell. That explains why they did it right when they did, with so little warning -- there's really no other reason to do it in such an inconvenient way.

Comment season is closed.