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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

6 gadgets Japan loves (and the U.S. rejected)

6 gadgets Japan loves (and the U.S. rejected)

Popular gadgets in Japan often just need a little time to start popping up in the U.S. For instance, most Japanese were using LCD monitors years before they were common stateside. But the rule doesn't hold for every gadget. Every now and then Japan produces a consumer technology that's incompatible with the American populace. Hit the Continue jump for some standout tech absences that are all the rage in the Far East.

massage_chair.jpg6. Massage chairs

The Japanese buy massage chairs like they were La-Z-Boys. Maybe the stresses of everyday Japanese life encourage people there to put a massage chair in their home, but for whatever reason they're popular enough to have a whole section dedicated to them in many department stores.

Why they haven't caught on stateside: Call us crazy, but the thought of having a chair grip you tightly enough to give you a massage is more than a little unsettling. I tried it once, and I couldn't stop thinking, "Don't piss this thing off."

superslim_cellphone.jpg5. Elongated phones

Walk down a crowded street in Tokyo and you'll see any number of people holding a phone to their face. What's surprising is how many of those phones are long and slim — often much longer than is necessary for the speaker to be clearly heard by the mike.

Why they haven't caught on stateside: Style, mainly. Super-skinny phones, like the Motorola KRZR, were so 2007.

blu-ray-recorder.jpg4. Blu-ray recorders

Witness this machine, a Panasonic Blu-ray recorder that can hold up to two terabytes on its internal hard disk, ready to burn that video onto a Blu-ray disc anytime. That's pretty impressive technology, letting users save entire seasons of TV shows before archiving them to disc.

Why they haven't caught on stateside: Americans use video technology differently. Setting up a machine to record TV shows to discs — or tapes, for that matter — is beyond many people. The U.S. rejected DVD recorders because we use DVD machines as players only, with the DVR essentially taking over all video-recording duties. By the time Blu-ray came, virtually no one was recording to disc anymore outside of the PC.

sit-down_shower.jpg3. Sit-down showers

Need a shower? In Japan, it's not uncommon to be able to kick your feet up while you rinse, sitting on a stool or, as in this photo, a chair built right into the wall. Pretty handy at the end of a long day, or if you simply don't want to get your hair wet.

Why they haven't caught on stateside: Showers in Japan are used before you get in the bath, and in public baths you're supposed to wash only from the neck down. In the U.S. public baths aren't mainstream, and sit-down showers have pretty much been relegated to bathrooms of the elderly and disabled.

sharp_netbookin.jpg2. Really small netbooks

Yes, you can get mini laptops here in the U.S., but in Japan it's the really tiny ones that stand out. Asus and Acer, known for their tiny (sub 10-inch) machines, have dominated the netbook market in Japan, and other manufacturers (notably Sharp) are following suit.

Why they haven't caught on stateside: You've got us. Maybe those small screens look a little too dainty to American sensibilities. Or maybe we just need to give it a few more months.

1. Bidet toilets

No list of curiously popular technologies in Japan would be complete without mentioning bidet toilets. As any visitor will tell you, going number two is a whole experience in Japan, from the first moment your behind touches the heated seat to the built-in stereos to the automatic flush.

Why they haven't caught on stateside: Beyond the sheer impractibility of connecting power cables to every toilet in America, here it's more accepted to catch up on some reading while sitting on the throne. That's entertaining enough for us.