House of Gadgets

Everyone knows that Japan is full of crazy gadgets. When I was about 15 my uncle bought me a book – “Chindogu – The Art of (Un)useless inventions”. It was full of things like umbrellas with a built-in raincoat, head-worn toilet paper dispensers for people with hay fever, chopstick-mounted fans to cool your noodles and the like:

It was the kind of stuff that makes you laugh until you realise that someone devoted a lot of brain power to make these things work, and none of them is any less stupid than riding a Razor scooter to work.

We recently moved into our apartment in Tokyo. As we have less expenses here compared to Sydney we’ve been able to go a little up market, meaning that our unit has a number of gadgets that really make places like Sydney seem positively backwards.

Arse-washing toilet

The Japanese obsession with cleanliness is nothing new, and a lot of people have already made fun of the Washlet-type toilets with self-cleaning bidets built into them.
However, as we were shopping for our whitegoods, I found that you can actually buy portable washlets for “personal use”. These are basically battery-operated water pistols with nice, watertight cases…
The concept made me giggle, thinking that it was probably a gimmick, or for people who wanted a washlet but couldn’t install one in their home for one reason or another.
And yet, no later than a week after discovering these items in the shop, I hear two clients discussing their recent purchase of said portable Washlets at a dinner meeting.
So, apparently portable washlets aren’t only popular enough that two businessmen on the other side of the world had them, but they also deigned that this was an appropriate conversation at a dinner table as a classy restaurant.
I have a lot to learn.

Automatic Baths

I’m guessing that most people already know about the obsession with baths in Japan. The fact that almost all vacationing in Japan revolves around Onsen (or, at the very least, public baths) is widely known.
When I grew up we had single electric water heater; the type that regularly explodes after a couple of decades of use. We never had gas, so it is likely that the stuff below is really old news for some people.

There is a thermostat in both the kitchen and the bath, allowing you to select the temperature of the hot water. This is great when you have young kids that are starting to play with taps – they might get some warm water, but certianly not the 80C water that our system in Sydney used to produce.

But they also have an “Automatic” bath button located in the kitchen. So, assuming that you have the plug in the bath, you hit the button, and the system fills up the bath for you and lets you know when it is ready. That is really helpful when you are struggling to extricate a 3-year-old from her favourite PreCure dress…

The Lights

I’ve heard that in Germany you have to buy your own kitchen, even if you are only renting a place. In Japan, it’s lights. And I don’t mean in the French style of “oh, we didn’t want to pick this kind of light fitting because it might not match your furniture,” I mean the standard oyster lights that are the only kind of lights that seem to exist in Japan.

There is a standard fitting, and only one style of light.

However, the LED-powered lights are remote-controlled, so not only can you change the colour between florescent or incandescent, but you can also set the brightness, sleep timers and the like and save memories into the light itself. So if you prefer cold white for reading but warm lights for eating, you can switch straight away. You can also pre-program a random timer so that if you’re going to be away it will turn the lights on and off so that thieves think you are still at home (but who are we kidding – this is Japan).

The Key

Another, probably slightly boring touch is that the RFID tag for the security doors and the lifts is build into the front door key. So instead of carrying a physical key and a “swipe fob” for the doors, you only need one thing in your pocket. Also very cool is that when you swipe the lift it auto-selects the floor for you, so if you are carrying a load of shopping you can simply get in the lift and off you go.


There is so much freaking storage in our flat. There is more storage in our toilet than there was in our entire bathroom in Sydney.

Multi-function Ovens

I know that multi-function ovens (Microwave/Grill/Oven) aren’t exactly new, however our oven has NFC (so you can use your phone instead of dealing with the menus) and 64 sensor zones to detect the temperature of the food. You just tell the oven that you’re cooking toast and it does the rest. Or if you’re warming up tea/coffee – it works out what it needs to do and gets on with it.

Another cool feature is that it tells you how much electricity you used, so if you are into really tiny accounting you can see if it is cheaper to re-cook something or to cook a lot of it and heat it up…

The Fridge

The fridge, like the oven, has more features than you’d expect. There is an air-tight drawer so that if you want to store something that might release an odor (e.g. cheese) then you can put it in there so that it doesn’t spoil your experience when you open the door. There is also a CO2 scrubber in the vegetable section so that it keeps them fresher, and a -2C section for cooling beer and rice without freezing them.

Built-in 1Gbps Switch

I’m not sure why it is there, however there is a 1Gbps switch that was pre-wired into the house, which has made getting all of our network storage back up and running a breeze

Floating Floors

If you are into studio construction, you’ll know that most recording studios are “rooms-within-rooms” – floating rooms that really help with noise reduction.

Our unit is built in the same way, with a 10cm air gap between the floor, ceiling and walls and the concrete structure, meaning that there is pretty much no noise transmission. The glass is all double-glazed as well, so you can have a bus drive past the window and barely notice it…

Anyways, most of these things are probably normal in the modern world, however Sydney is very far behind the times when it comes to home construction and fit-out. Our Sydney unit, which was only completed last year, is still having issues with the hot water supply and at least 10% of the doors to the apartments are still getting stuck in the door jamb. So it really is a different world.

I have a week in limbo this week, so I’m hoping to get at least one, if not 2-3 chapters of AG out… at least, that is the plan…


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