“It is almost startling to hear this warning of departed time sounding among the tombs, and telling the lapse of the hour, which, like a billow, has rolled us onward towards the grave.”
― Washington Irving, The Sketch Book
From the Crow Museum Website:
Large bells such as this were common in the Edo period to mark time for communities. They were often paid for by collecting coins from parishes and locales, and then melted down for the metal. These bells are clapper-less and were struck with a large wooden beam. With the introduction of Western clocks into Japan, fewer large bells, like this one, were needed. Modernity also called for replacing the traditional calendar based on the zodiac with a January to December year. Bells continued to be made, but their use was more commemorative and ceremonial than practical.