Who will find the Osaka clock in 5000 years time?

This week, I managed to get a brief glimpse at Japan’s far distant future. I was invited to consider the year 6970, to be precise.

On that date, it is believed that someone, or something, will open a time capsule which is buried in Osaka and find messages from a generation of people, who will be as distant from them temporly as the people of the stone age are to us.

The time capsule was buried in 1970 and it includes a special plutonium timekeeper made by Seiko and Matsushita, sponsored by the Mainichi newspaper.

It includes a set of instructions on how to tell the time (it doesn’t have a dial) and a note from the then president of Matsushita, who said he hopes: “Something of our civilization will survive the ravages of time.”

I learned about this clock from a new book called About Time – A history of our civilization in Twelve Clocks by David Rooney.

The author is not optimistic about our future and speculates that humans will be long gone by the time the clock strikes 6970.

Matsushita Masaharu from Matsushita Electric greets Umejima Tadashi from Mainichi Newspapers (1968)

Actually as a journalist, I’m quite surprised that all the companies involved in the project, including the Mainichi, are still thirviving in 2021. I can’t be sure about their survival in future centuries.

The complex science of this remarkable clock is explained on Panasonic’s website. Its counting mechanism is based on plutonium, which could be regarded as an ominous omen.

The good news is that we don’t have to wait five centuries to see the time capsule unveiled.

A room displaying a replica is on permanent display in Osaka museum, near the castle.

Osaka has one of the most famous castles in Japan

And it turns out that there are not one but two capsules buried underground – one which will remain there until 6970 (or until the end of time) and another which was last opened in the year 2000 and is set to be opened again once every hundred years.

Panasonic says: “It is dedicated jointly to our descendants and to the people of the present having the vision to see beyond their own lifetime into the world of the future.”

That sounds like a wonderful and timeless idea.