Robots are a driving force in the Japanese economy and have captured the Japanese popular imagination, spawning countless movies, comics and even restaurants. While this may seem cutting edge, the modern concept of robots can actually be traced back to Japan’s samurai era.
Shortly after the U.S. Civil War, a mysterious Japanese doll departed from Japan and made its way to the United States. Believed to have been created some time in the 1840s by a mechanical genius named Hisashige Tanaka, the female doll was clad in an ornate kimono. Driven by an intricate wind-up mechanism, the doll wielded a calligraphy brush to write on a piece of paper mounted on a board in front of it. Rediscovered in the U.S. in 2003, it was subsequently returned to Japan and underwent restoration.