Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Datch waifu (Sex dolls)

Sex dolls in Japan are not generally the grotesque, O-mouthed type, but tend to be much more sophisticated and realistic. In Japanese, these silicone dolls are known as datch waifu (Dutch wives), a name likely to be about as popular with Dutch ex-pats as “Turkish Bath” (brothel) was with the ...

Purikura (Print club)

Print club (or purikura) is a special covered booth which takes novelty pictures. Once the picture has been taken, cartoons, mangled English and "cute" stuff can be electronically added before they are printed out. Surprisingly low-tech by Japanese standards, it's massively popular among young people. Print club machines can be seen all ...

Karaoke

In only 20 years, karaoke ("empty orchesta") has become synonymous with modern Japan. As the legend goes, it was born in Kobe, when a canny restauranteur encouraged customers to sing over a backing tape when his act didn't show up. This is probably rubbish though. Japan's karaoke culture's way ahead of the ...

Vending machines

There are over 5 million vending machines in Japan, with a turnover of almost a million every year. Soft drinks and cigarette machines are most prevalent, but you may also come across those containing: beer, manga, videos, condoms, instant ramen, eggs, pornography, hot food, live lobsters and underwear. Tragically, you can't ...

Super toilets

Japan's state-of-the-art lavatories are a far cry from the traditional holes in the floor (which, while being good for your back, are hardly fit to be used by animals). Offering an unparallelled defecating experience, these toilets feature heated seats and computerized control panels for users' every need. Embarassing noises are tastefully masked ...

Shinkansen (Bullet train)

The Shinkansen ("new trunk line"), Japan's high-speed train service, connects many major cities at 300 km/h. Launched in 1964 to connect Tokyo and Osaka, it has become a symbol of Japan's economic miracle and technological dominance. The trains are reliable (the average lateness is 12 seconds, which is considered early in Britain) ...

Bowlingual (Dog interpreter)

According to its creators, Bowlingual can interpret the barks, whines and yelps of over 80 breeds of dog. Catlovers are not left out, as Meowlingual is also available. It was voted Japan's Best Invention of 2002. Junichiro Koizumi (Japan's Prime Minister) presented Vladimir Putin (Russia's president) with two of the devices on an ...

Yumemi Kobo (Dream Workshop)

The Yumemi Kobo, or "Dream Workshop", claims to allow people to control their dreams. It uses sight, sound and scent to bombard the sleeper with subliminal messages when they are most receptive. Initial tests by makers Takara (who also made the Bowlingual) showed a 22% success rate. In Japan, it currently retails for ...

Capsule hotels

Missed the last train again? Too drunk to go home to your wife? Unfussy about personal space and privacy? Try one of Japan's world famous capsule hotels. For many, sleeping in a plastic coffin is unappealing, especially as a thin curtain is all that separates you from up to 50 slumbering ...

Ocean Dome (Japan’s indoor beach)

Imagine a beach where the sky is always blue, it's never too hot or cold, and the surf is always perfect. Welcome to Ocean Dome, the world's only indoor beach, in Miyazaki, Kyushu. Ocean Dome has its own flame-spitting volcano, crushed white marble "sand", and it also boasts the world's largest ...

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