From clever, space-saving parking garages to some interesting ways to entice hungry customers, here are genius inventions that exist only in Japan!
This iconic piece of furniture is basically a low wooden table that is covered by a heavy futon with a table top sitting on that. Right under the table there is also a small heater which used to be fueled by coal but is now commonly replaced by a small electric heater.
It’s origins are from the Muromachi era in the fourteenth century. They came into fashion for many reasons. One being that the houses in Japan aren’t as well insulated as Western buildings so staying warm isn’t as easy. Also, the kotatsu were designed with traditional Japanese clothing in mind, where the heat would enter in through the bottom of robes or kimono and rise up to heat the entire body. No matter their origin, now they are pretty much pieces of furniture that guarantee optimal coziness for all who use it.
In Japan where there’s almost an entire season of rain, so it makes sense that pretty much every citizen has at least one umbrella. Outside of public places you might also find these umbrella parking lots, a place to store your wet umbrella before you enter a building. It makes so much sense! And you also don’t have to leave puddles all over entrance ways to make people slip all over the place.
Public Bathroom Efficiency
Japanese public bathrooms offer fully private stalls for their patrons. The walls and door usually go all the way from the ground to the ceiling, and in some women’s washrooms there will even be light music or the sounds of rushing water playing to alleviate the embarrassment of any accidental noise.
Since it can be kind of hard to tell which stalls are occupied, some public bathrooms have electronic maps that display which stalls are currently occupied. This will save you and anyone else from accidentally walking in on each other or having to knock on the door and ask if anyone’s inside.
Dictionary Desk Pillow
This is the perfect tool for the workaholic office drone or busy student on the go. It may look like you just have a huge dictionary hidden on your book shelf or in your desk but once you open it up it’s obvious that it’s just a pillow for you take a small nap on.
Sleeping on the job isn’t necessarily seen as a bad thing in Japan. While dozing off at work can be seen as grounds for termination in many countries, in Japan it could be a sign of hard work. On average, Japanese workers get less sleep on a work night than other countries, so they have to catch up at some point. They even have a word for napping on the clock: inemuri.
If you’ve ever heard of those crazy Japanese toilets with all the buttons, this is it. The Washlet is seriously the only way anyone should use a sitting toilet. It often comes with a seat warmer for those cold nights and has a built in bidet for you to wash and dry all the bits down there. Gone are the days of looking like the Charmin bears; you will never have to touch dry toilet paper again! Any other toilet compared to these feels like something only a caveman would use.
Sink Over a Toilet
In Japan you can also find the very conveniently placed sinks over the toilet. Don’t worry, the water comes straight from the tap, so it’s fresh and clean. The ingenious part comes from the fact that it drains down to refill the toilet bowl for the next time you flush! It’s a smart way to save water and reuse it in a simple and conscientious way.
Meet the Kunekune Lying Down Tablet Stand, the Japanese tool that will help you get rid of your sore arms from trying to read while lying down in bed. It can be used to hold up a small book, smartphones, or any smart tablet of your choice. It’s perfect for reading in bed, browsing the internet, or even just lending accessibility to those who are bound to bedrest. The only comment we have is: when can we buy one of these in the West!?
This invention is perfect for those who are sight-impaired. In Japan, cans of beer have recently been imprinted with braille on top, allowing the blind and sight impaired to find a can of beer to kickback with. This is actually a recent development, but is definitely something that the differently-abled can appreciate.
You’re probably familiar with the popularity of vending machines in Japan, but almost entire stores are completely automated. You can find vending machines that sell anything from drinks to snacks to hot meals and even clothes and underwear. Some stores are just capsule machines and even restaurants make you buy tokens from vending machines to order your food. In a population that’s skewing towards elders, it makes sense that menial jobs usually fulfilled by the young are replaced by the convenience of machines.