Holiday Gift Guide 2014: AkihabaraNews' Top 15 Japanese Gadgets
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Unique Technology + Unique Culture ÷ AkihabaraNews = A List of Very Japanese Gifts & Gadgets
Well, we’ve put together quite a range: from $6 sushi socks to an $80 HD-video spywatch to a $260 Japanese pasta maker to a $2,000 emotional robot - there’s something for everyone on your list...even if your list is just you!
Before jumping in, we have to say that this was not easy. We cover a whole lot of wonderful and unique Japanese gadgets and everyday practical products, and narrowing it all down to a manageable gift guide is less of a search and more of an exercise in sacrifice. But choose we did.
AkihabaraNews editors curated their favorites and mashed those up with social media numbers and general analytics, and the result is what you see below: a list that balances between popularity and the geeky pseudo-wisdom of keyboard pounding J-tech nerds. Let us begin!
15 Great Gifts for Christmas, Winter Holidays, and the New Year:
JSYK, prices in Yen are based on the Japanese makers’ MSRP or an actual retail price; the U.S. Dollar conversions are estimates based on the December 5 end-of-business rate - so, be advised that fluctuating exchange rates do exactly that. As might be obvious below, the yen is pretty weak at the time of this list’s publication, i.e., it’s good time to buy, but it probably won’t last.
Okay, enough chit-chat - presented in inline gallery form:
#1 Sushi Socks
Food as culture is an extremely important aspect of life and society in Japan, but even the hallowed sushi gets ribbed and poked at from time to time. Japanese humor really shines when it looks inward a bit, and in that spirit, these are positively brilliant. The sushi patterns are knitted right into these quality cotton socks, in your choice of masuzushi (trout sushi), ebi (shrimp), tako (octopus), ikura (salmon roe), maguro (tuna), shake (salmon) and tamago (egg).
¥600 / $5.00 [READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE - Also Available: Sushi Socks 2.0]
#2 Drink to and with Mt. Fuji
Show how much you like Japan with a round of drinks featuring Mt. Fuji ice cubes. Idea International’s product, Fuji On The Rock, requires about 8-12 hours to form the two layers of ice. A custom-designed molding cup then creates a solid ice cube resembling the iconic shape of Fuji-san, which includes its famous layer of snow about halfway from the peak.
¥1,200 / $10.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#3 Thumb-Shaped Wearable Stylus
Until the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, most people have been able to use their Apple smartphone one-handed, one-thumbed, with no reach issues. Well, things have changed, and we’re now learning harsh lessons that come with upgrading to very large phone but keeping thes same size hands and thumbs. Thankfully, the heroes at Thanko have an answer.
¥1,480 / $12.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#4 Musical Earmuffs Make Small Faces
Audio-Technica’s plainly named ATH-FW55 earmuff headphones are designed specifically for Japanese girls. Why? Since the fluffy ear coverings are so big, they make the user's face appear smaller, which Japanese girls consider attractive. Audio-Technica also makes good products at good prices, so really these are for anyone who’d like to roll with this fashion…and have a small-looking face...we guess.
¥3,400 / $28.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#5 Finally an Umbrella with More than One Function
Century’s Bright Night is a fashionable, functional, and durable umbrella that features two krypton lamps attached inside. The lamps light up your hands, a bag, or even your feet on dark, rainy nights. Century says the umbrella can be seen up to 30 meters away, which is also an added safety feature.
¥4,090 / $34.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#6 Noise Cancelling Earplugs
King Jim’s These work surprisingly well. Pop them in your ears, switch them on and BAM!…or rather unBAM! A bustling Shinjuku street becomes a relaxing park. Coffee shops become libraries with lattes. Conversations are clearer because the peripheral buzz is removed. Even the screeching Tokyo subway system becomes serene and aurally calm. If they work in the world’s largest city, they’ll probably work anywhere.
¥4,980 / $41.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#7 Draft Beer Anywhere
With Premium Beer Server Gokurei, you can chill a can of beer to the best temperature to drink and then serve the beer within it like draft beer through a tap. To make the beer cold, put ice and water in the server and turn it on. 4 minutes later, the 350ml canned beer becomes 4-6℃ and will be kept cold until it is emptied. In addition, by adding salt to the ice and water, you are able to cool it to below 0℃.
¥7,800 / $64.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#8 Because of Course You Need an HD Cam in Your SpyWatch
The wacky yet oddly inventive engineers at Thanko built a teeny-tiny high definition camera into this watch’s analog face, just below the six o’clock position. It’s fairly inconspicuous, and no one would know that wrapped around your wrist there is a 720p HD video and still camera. Features include a built-in mic with waterproof cap, USB port, video timestamp option, full A/V-out capability, Mac or PC compatibility and 4GB of memory for media or data storage.
¥8,000 / $66.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#9 Perhaps, too Lifelike?
Incredibly lifelike, gyoza-inspired iPhone 6/6 Plus cases and stand from Hamee. Made in collaboration with an official gyoza organization, these food facsimiles are extremely detailed. The crunchy parts of the gyoza are handmade, and one of the pot stickers on the iPhone case shows the stuffing inside surrounded by what appears to be real liquid goodness… but isn't. Each case and the stand are
¥9,800 / $81.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#10 Robotic Mini-Segway that Wants to Play
Half of Takara Tomy’s Omnibot series, Hello!Mip is a fun, interactive robot that rolls around much like a tiny Segway with arms and limited artificial intelligence. The robot has a dance mode that provides its own music through a speaker on its chest, a free travel mode, in which it avoids obstacles on its own, and a learning mode that enables it to memorize a maximum of 50 instructions.
¥15,000 / $123.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#11 Self-Contained Fresh Japanese Green Tea Brewer
Sharp’s Healsio Ocha Presso is an espresso machine-like tea maker that works without altering the nutrient ingredients of tea leaves. The built-in ceramic mortar slowly mills tea leaves into a 20 micron fine powder (like matcha, or traditional Japanese green tea). As the machine boils the water, it removes any chlorine content, lowers the temperature to 80-90 degrees Celsius, then mixes the tea using a built-in bamboo whisk—this is the famous Japanese tea ceremony automated.
¥16,000 / $132.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#12 Ramen, Udon, and Soba at Home
Yes, we know that Phillips is a Dutch company, but their pasta maker gets a special mention here: after consulting and collaborating with Japanese instant noodle giant Nissin, the Phillips Noodle Maker was given a special twist and can now produce slurpable ribbons of udon, soba and ramen. The machine also comes with a Japan-specific recipe book.
¥32,000 / $263.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#13 Destroyer of DSLRs
In the spring of 2014, Panasonic delivered the Lumix GH4, an easy-to-use, exceedingly capable, true hybrid camera that can go toe to toe with the best specialist systems in both still photography and video. The GH4 delivers quality at a price point that makes the more traditional, expensive products that are associated with “professionals” seem unnecessary and old hat. And yes, Virginia, there is 4K.
¥150,000 / $1,234.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
The last two items aren’t currently available for adding to cart, but they are expected to be priced and available no later than Spring 2015 - so start saving and get yours reserved soon!
#14 Dococchi Child Monitor for Pre/Gradeschool Kids
Looking just like a cool watch, this wearable it keeps a close eye on children by tracking their condition and location. It has IPX5 waterproof/IP5X rustproof performance, GPS, Bluetooth, an accelerometer, weather sensors, and more. It’s able to count kids' steps, measure ambient temperature and humidity, detect where he/she is, determine whether they are walking or resting, and deliver all the data to the parents' PC or smartphone. Available Spring 2015 - ¥TBA / $TBA [READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
#15 SoftBank Robotics’ Pepper
Finally, the most expensive and exclusive item on the list: SoftBank’s Pepper robot. Available in Japan early next year (but also scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. and possibly Europe by the end of 2015), Pepper is the first humanoid robot able to read human emotion based on gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice. Not only can it read our emotions, but it can formulate appropriate replies in response. Unlike ASIMO - or almost any other robot, for that matter - Pepper will also have an app store. Imagine the possibilities! Available Spring 2015 in Japan; Europe and North America late-2015 - Approximately ¥198,000 / $1,630.00 [ORIGINAL ARTICLE]
Our Guide also Appears in TOKYO INSIGHT iOS Magazine
Our friends at Japan Today published a (slightly abridged) version of this guide in the December issue of their TOKYO INSIGHT digital magazine. You can subscribe and download from the App Store here.
In addition to the occasional AkihabaraNews content, the beautifully laid-out monthly publication includes 10-15 articles providing exactly what the name implies. For the ground-level POV on life here in the world’s largest city, TOKYO INSIGHT is definitely a recommended read.*
Read TOKYO INSIGHT here.
*Note on TOKYO INSIGHT Authorship:
Editor Reno, keen to avoid jolly, clever, and witty prose in favor of his rambling, arrogant Technosnark©®™, would like to point out that the attribution in for the INSIGHT magazine’s version of the guide is incorrect. HE DID NOT write this guide. He is much more of a smartass.