The Land of the Rising Sun isn’t just the home of sushi, Sony, and Super Mario, it’s also host to more bizarre gadgets, strange toys, and Hello-Kitty-branded items than you can even fathom. Here are a few of our most bizarre finds from that land across the Pacific, proving that technology can be used for good, for evil, and sometimes, for just plain nonsense.
Face Bank, $23+
Never have we seen a stronger deterrent to saving money – or closing your eyes to sleep at night – than Face Bank. This little automated bank from Banpresto opens its mouth when you hold your hand nearby to swallow coins. Feed it a quarter and it will feverishly gnaw at it with its rubbery lips until the coin drops into its square rubber gut. You really need to see it in action to appreciate it.
Yamaha Tenori-On, $1,200
Japanese musician Toshio Iwai designed the Tenori-On as a unique digital instrument that can be operated by interacting with a grid of moving LEDs. The motion they display actually translates to sound, which both plays through the built-in speakers and can be recorded. Most of the clips we’ve seen sound like a six year old pounding on a synthesizer. It’s the guitar of the future, which is why we’re making a point not to live past 90.
Leave it to the Japanese to take ordinary RFID technology and translate it to something strange and apparently useless. After attaching RFID tags called ztamp:s to different objects, you can wave them in front of the computer-controlled mir:ror to perform a preprogrammed action. For instance, wave your wallet and it will open online banking, or your watch and it will bring up an atomic clock for you to synchronize it with. To be fair, with tags that can literally be attached to anything, and a completely customizable response, so it’s really as useful (or useless) as you make it.
Bandai Tuttuki Bako, $45
Your wildest fantasies of poking a digital panda or playing with digital slime will come true with this miraculous box. Or at least, that’s a lot like what we imagine pitch meeting for it sounded like. When you stick your finger in through a hole in the side, it becomes a digital finger represented on the grayscale LCD on the side. You can use it to prod a digital panda on a string, play with a booger-like ball of slide, or poke a digital person in the face until they sneeze. Why? We don’t know.
Your uterus is calling, and it wants you to make a baby. Now. This slender-and-lady-like phone has been designed to help women pinpoint that special time of the month when fertility is highest. Just enter the pertinent (and personal) details, and it will call you to give you your cue when it’s time to get busy. Fellas, this one might be worth hacking to ring on demand.
NTT DoCoMo Fertility Phone D702iF FOMA
1000-watt power supply on that deluxe gaming computer not throwing off enough heat to keep your parents’ basement toasty? Attach these USB-powered gloves that electrically heat your hands and you’re set to game on for depressingly long periods. But seriously, for those who suffer from tyrannical thermostat-lowering roommates or parents intent on keeping the house at an efficient 50 degrees, these could be a cheap way to keep those fingers from turning blue.
Can’t spring for real jellyfish in a glass box? We hear you. Japanese manufacturer Banpresto also apparently heard the cry of consumer demand for affordable illuminated jellyfish in a box, and voila, the Aquapict LED Jellyfish Aquarium was born. The simulated sea creatures are actually made of silicon, and they wave back and forth in the tank on currents from a pump while LED lights set the mood. Fill the tank with painful skin-stinging toxins and it’s just like the real thing.
Ant’s Life Studio, $85
Bandai has recreated all of the banality of an ant farm and none of the natural wonder in Ant’s Life Studio, a digital version of the one that actually helped you learn something as a kid. Watch as your digital ants walk around, eat, and… walk around. Come on, Japan, this thing doesn’t even have any comedic potential when it breaks.
While the rest of the world is trying to figure out how to tap solar energy to heat homes, run computers, or even just power calculators, Japan seems content to use mini solar panels to power cute desktop companions. Nohohons hypnotically bob their heads back while you work, “relieving stress” if you believe their creators, or acting as a visual metronome to meter how much of your life you’ve whittled away on work. You know, depending on your life outlook.
Nohohons Desk Characters
Notice that the title says “gadget” instead of “thumb drive.” Unlike the thousands of strangely styled USB drives out there, these humping dogs have literally no purpose. They don’t offer storage, or Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. They just transform 5 volts of USB output into a flurry of creepy robot dog humping. We’re at the apex of civilization, folks.
Humping Dog USB Gadgets