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JAPANESE AUTOMATIC CALENDAR BANK
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine March, 2013

EXCITING AS WELL as challenging are the occasional discoveries of "new finds" in the world of mechanical banks. A most interesting example is our subject, "Japanese Automatic Calendar Bank" (Figure 1).
     Oftentimes, persistent and extensive research are required to reveal an object's identity and ancestry. Its illusiveness may, perhaps, be the result of lack of documentation obtained from period trade catalogs and/or patent information. In this instance, and to complicate identification, "Japanese Automatic Calendar Bank" lacks not only the aforementioned data, but the fact that all surface imprinted wordage indicates "early" Japanese graphemics.
     To decipher the meaning of these obscure pictograms and wordage it became necessary to enlist the assistance of a scholar well versed in such translation. His findings revealed documentation of a mechanical bank of Japanese manufacture, circa 1900. This mechanical reflected a culture steeped in Oriental wisdom and divine ideology. It was also indicated that Japanese life was philosophically attuned to the forces of nature and its elements. Interpretation of the several symbols decorating the bank's tin-plate facade also proved quite illuminating. One example is the rooster that is positioned at each side of the rectangular window that displays a day of the week. The symbol of the crowing rooster can be found in many cultures in Asia, but is most venerated in Japan. According to Japanese tradition the rooster emits its "wake up" call to the goddess Amaterasa. The rays of the rising sun symbolize wisdom. The "day of the week" window itself depicts Japanese ethos. Within this window is a Japanese word that adjoins each day with the powers of a universal natural element; these are: Monday Moon; Tuesday Fire; Wednesday Water; Thursday Wood; Friday Gold; Saturday Earth; Sunday Sun. At the base of the facade is an embossed image of Mount Fuji, the most recognizable of Japan's three holy mountains.

     Much of the mystery surrounding "Japanese Automatic Calendar Bank" is heightened by the fact that, to date, it is the only example of its kind to surface. In fact, it is the only Japanese mechanical bank of late nineteenth, early twentieth century production to have ever been discovered.
     Interestingly, although the facade of the bank exhibits Japanese wordage and symbolism, it also indicates a style of design reflecting that of European Art Nouveau quality. This is not surprising since the Japanese have long been admirers of Western art, culture and engineering, often striving to emulate, if not rival and excel its occidental counterpart. An example is the finely detailed embossing gracing this bank's tin-plate exterior. Such embossing bears an unmistakable similarity to early twentieth century German bold relief tin-plate goods. In addition, its internal mechanism (Figure 2) reflects the intricacy, precision and brilliance of early German mechanical bank engineering.
     Action of "Japanese Automatic Calendar Bank" is somewhat complex but effective. To operate properly a coin, the precise size and weight of our present day twenty-five cent piece, must be employed. Upon insertion of the coin, the red indicator (Figure 1) advances from the present to the following date. The day, as seen in the rectangular window (also Figure 1), must be advanced manually. This is accomplished via a small knurled knob located on the upper left side of the bank.
     Coin retrieval is accomplished through a small tin-plate door (Figure 3) located at the base of the bank. This door opens automatically, and only when the weight of forty, twenty-five cent size, coins (i.e. ten dollars) have been deposited.
     "Japanese Automatic Calendar Bank" is extremely rare. This is not surprising when one considers its fragile tin-plate and glass construction, as well as a complex, easily damaged internal mechanism.
     Despite its monochromatic, simplistic, box type configuration and diminutive size (i.e. Height: 7-7/8 inches; Width: 5-7/8 inches; Depth: 3-3/4 inches), "Japanese Automatic Calendar Bank" is a unique and historically important mechanical bank befitting its addition to a collection.
     Acknowledgment: The "Japanese Automatic Calendar Bank" (Figure 1) was discovered by fellow-collectors and historians, Mark and Lynda Suozzi.
 

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