HOME > Springs and Technology > Episode 24: Gratitude for "Return" Springs

Episode 24: Gratitude for "Return" Springs

Hello everyone.

Japan continued to be blanketed by heavy snows from the end of last year. Tottori, Shimane, Hokuriku, Tohoku and Hokkaido all were covered by the heavy snows. There was even news that some unfortunate train passengers that were heading home for the holidays didn't make it to their intended destinations and ended up spending their new year's holiday on trains in Tottori and Shimane.

The local citizens were unable to do their year-end shopping because of the snow. Power was also shut down causing many Japanese people to suffer in the cold and dark during what is usually a nice time of the year.
I'm sure there were quite a few families that had prepared special dishes and waited patiently for loved ones who would never get back home, hoping to greet them with the customary warm welcome Japanese people give when you return.

We should also be thankful for the return that springs give to us. What I mean is・・・so many of us easily forget that springs are very important in our lives. I think that is the result of the fact that springs are everywhere around us, all the time.

You can find springs everywhere and anywhere・・・For example, consider the pocket-holder clip on your favorite pen, or pencil, or the button that you press to push out the writing portion of a ball-point pen, your binder, clothes pins, remote controller buttons, your fingernail clippers, keyboard, and all kinds of electric devices (or machines)・・・they all have buttons….even the U-shaped scissors that you must have used in home economics classes in school ? they're all examples of springs.

Have you ever stopped to consider what would happen if a button on your television remote controller didn't return to its original position after you pressed it? You could only use it once! Saying it would be an inconvenience is putting it lightly. You couldn't do anything!

hat's why I think we should all be thankful that buttons "return." Of course・・・you don't have to be thankful every time a button returns!


Long ago, when people hunted, hunters would bend branches or trees toward the ground to form a bow and set a trap below to capture their prey. When the prey became trapped, it would struggle to get free which causes the stay holding the tree back to come loose and allow it to spring back to its original shape. That prevented the prey from getting away. The bent tree felt better to be back to its normal shaped, but for the trapped prey, it was a different story. So that bow-effect used to capture prey is called a "return."

I can't tell you whether the hunter looked at his watch as exclaimed: I'll bet I have caught something to eat by now・・・ but in order for a clock to work, to count time, a coiled spring called a spiral spring never stops working hard for us. Using a wind-up to manually wind the coiled spring a little at a time, allows us to use the return force that is built into a tightly coiled spring to return to its original shape.

In Japan, on cold winter days, like over the New Year's holidays, people would place surume, or dried squid, on a stove or room heater to warm it up before eating it. The squid would gradually begin to roll up. People would pick it up and tear it apart by hand while it is still hot to eat it.
So for that reason, the coiled spring in Japan used to be called surume, or dried squid.
I'm sure that all of you can remember that whale bone was also adopted for use. However, it was not good for clocks that were required to keep accurate time.

New years makes me think of people drinking from morning until night. Japanese Sake is really essential for the New Year's holidays.


Did you know that long ago Sake was sold by measure. That scene is frequently a part of the Japanese tale of Onmyouji. People would take large empty Sake bottles to have them filled at the liquor shop.
It seems they were more eco-friendly back then.
In those days, parents often sent their kids to the liquor store, unlike today. Each time, children would get paid a little sum of money, so that in itself made children very happy.
Now, even if you pay a minor to go buy you Sake, shops won't sell the child any Sake today, that's for sure.

If you think about Sake being sold by weight, the meat and fish stores of long ago used a cylindrical weight that hung on one side of the scale・・・Now you don't see that anywhere.

There is a metal piece to hang at the bottom of the scale called a Hooke.
This kind of hanging scale applied Hooke's law. This law was discovered by a British scientist named Robert Hooke.
It is rather difficult to understand, but to explain in simplest terms, in the study of mechanics, Hooke's law of elasticity is an approximation that states that the extension of a spring is in direct proportion with the load applied to it.

Piolax Inc. makes a variety of springs for use in vehicles.
Generally estimated, a vehicle can use anywhere between 4,000 and 5,000 different springs.
Of course, each spring is important, but the ones in the engine and brakes play particularly important roles.

Engine valves can do their important work thanks to the forces provided by springs. Engine valves close after a gas mixture (of air and fuel) is injected into the engine's cylinders, and close again after exhaust gases are emitted after combustion in the cylinder.
This operation is repeated many times at high speed in the engine, so they work quickly. If I were a spring・・・I would be very tired, I think.


This is as far as I can go this time.

It looks like winter will last for a while longer.
I hope you all will remember to drive carefully so you will always be able to enjoy the smiling faces of your family when they greet you with a warm welcome upon your "return."

See you next time!

Written by Banekko (a child of spring)