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A project log for Japanese Word Clock

(work in progress) Just another word clock - except it's in japanese and can show time and date!

mechatroNickmechatroNick 02/11/2019 at 20:290 Comments

I've always been fascinated by encoding information in the most different ways (from symbols and color codes to cryptography, programming and stuff). And since I've casually been learning some japanese recently, I liked the idea of a japanese style clock as a design object and a way to practice the characters.

And as I love flashy LED gimmicks, it was just logical to create a fancy clock inspired by some other awesome projects here.


For planning the layout, I gathered all the characters I needed to display time. I know that Japanese also often use latin numbers, but I thought an exclusive kanji/kana style would be more nerdy :D - I mean classic... I also included optional characters for "half" and "noon" and a basic sentence structure ("it is .... right now") typical for word clocks.

With at least two full sets of numbers from 1 to >20, I thought of a way to optionally show the date. With the idea of showing the date in sequence, I was also able to optionally display the current year without a third set of numbers and by just adding one character 年 for year.

As Japanese can be written left-to-right or top-to-bottom, I know it may be a bit confusing to read but I decided to stick with the western L-to-R reading I grew up with.

Planning characters and layout
Planning characters and layout - different layouts, fonts, color schemes

Some characters like 四 (4) and ニ (2) had to appear three or more times, so I tried my best to distribute them evenly between the other symbols while also keeping symbol groups in the right order. Additionally there are some characters representing a word in combination, so I didn't want to split them up, e.g. 午前 (forenoon) and 午後 (afternoon). This results in having "noon" twice in the layout although not needed shown at the same time...

this still bugs me...

maybe I will rethink this decision...

current layout
Current layout (work in progress) - showing 'it is 4:50 now' - damn... i'm up for waaay too long now

I'm currently plannig the manufacturing process. I think I will buy an empty picture frame, cut the layout into a sticky foil, 3D-print some space holders and throw some electronics in there.

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