Japan is famed for its gadgets, but there’s more to the country’s manufacturing prowess than you’d imagine. Having been caught up in a sudden rush of material madness, our editorial team has spent the last few months scouring the country for some of the most original, best-value Japanese products available right now – from the everyday to the extravagant. Check out our top 25 below and start filling up that wallet...
The top 25: 1-13
A real problem when the rain really comes pouring down, sewer flooding has caused plenty of damage in urban areas – including Tokyo – over the past few years. This system relies on sensors installed in manholes and transmits data wirelessly every five minutes, making it possible to immediately detect sudden water level increases and prevent flood damage caused by torrential rains. pr.fujitsu.com/jp/news/2016/08/15.html
Arita in Saga prefecture has been a pottery town since the 17th century and its wares are still considered some of the finest in Japan. These handsome beer glasses are shaped to bring out the best in every brew – be it a wildly hoppy hipster ale or a cheap supermarket can.
Mark, circle or draw a box around parts of text you want to focus on, then scan these with your camera. The data will be transferred to your phone, giving you access to hand-drawn notes anywhere. Developed by stationery maker Pentel, the AnkiSnap demonstrates that the gap between analogue and digital can indeed be bridged. pentel.co.jp/products/degitalstationery/ankisnap
These 300ml mini-barrels look exactly like the full-sized versions often seen at celebratory events, and are filled with the Ishikawa-based Kikuhime brewery’s signature ‘Kiku’ sake. Your Friday-night nihonshu sip just got a lot classier. blog.kikuhime.co.jp/2011/05/300ml.html
Nothing beats a cup of cold sake on a hot, humid day, but adding ice tends to dilute the flavours. Solving the problem is this flask that comes equipped with an ice pocket on the side. It keeps your drink cool while maintaining the kick – and looks very stylish throughout. toyo.sasaki.co.jp/products/?action_products_detail=true&series_cd=636
Kyoto's Uebaeso, the oldest paint shop in Japan, also makes this nail polish that's crafted from scallop shells. Known as gofun, the material is easy on the nails, lacks the usual nail polish smell, can be removed with alcohol and comes in a variety of colours – including traditional Japanese ones such as agate and red plum.
The top 25: 14-25
Made in the traditional ceramics centre of Tokoname, this simplistic teapot is even more impressive than it looks. Light and easy to handle, it’s made entirely of clay, ensuring that nothing interferes with the taste of the tea, while the superb craftsmanship prevents leakage when pouring. azmaya.co.jp/item/youto/daidokoro/平急須
Drawing on the heritage of Edo Kiriko glassware, these simply shaped but highly decorative cups come with a lid and feature artisanal designs carved directly onto the surface, the bottom and even the inner base. Handcrafted by Tokyo-born sisters Yuma and Yuka Arii, they’re beautiful enough to be displayed in a gallery but also highly practical and easy to use.
Designed by young artisan Shuji Nakagawa and Thomas Lykke of the Danish OeO studio, the Ki-oke marries Scandinavian simplicity with the finest Japanese materials – soft sawara cypress and lignitised cedar buried underground for over 2,000 years – and symbolises the future of traditional Japanese woodwork.
More and more cities around the world are making use of ‘smart cards’ for public transport, but Japan’s IC cards are in a class of their own. Tokyo’s Suica and Pasmo can be used on JR trains across the country as well as on most buses, but what really sets them apart is how they hint at a cashless future – most convenience stores and many vending machines are already IC-compatible.
Taking care of a house plant can be harder than it sounds. But what if you had something that told you when the soil is too dry, when the plant is too cold or too hot, and if your green baby is getting enough natural light? With this ‘smart pot’ you can say goodbye to botanical blunders. By hooking Planty up to its smartphone app, you can confirm conditions at any time and even water the plant when you’re not at home.
Edo Kiriko, Tokyo’s traditional style of cut glassware, boasts almost 200 years of history. One classic Edo Kiriko pattern is the drop-like nanako, which is used in these artisanal earrings made from crystal glass. Transparent and shiny, the beauties come in three sizes and make for the perfect gift – either for yourself or that special someone.
Both a studio and a retail store, Kuramae leather shop M+ really stands out from the crowd. Artisan Yuichiro Murakami, who used to be an architect, puts his heart – and the traditional techniques he learned in Italy – into the products, which ooze simplicity and functionality. Get one of his wallets and you just might be set for life.