The Cell Phone Camera Diet Plan

Japanese businessmen don’t have time to be reading about the Atkins diet, nor do they have space in their briefcases for cans of SlimFast. Instead, for $20-30 a month, Osaka-dwellers are taking advantage of an awesome new diet plan devised by a collaboration of 150 local governments and medical facilities whereby people can take a picture of their meal with their cell phone cameras and then e-mail it to a nutritionist on stand-by for detailed caloric facts and sage advice.

Obesity, high cholesterol, and metabolic syndrome have been on the rise among the aging Japanese. The cell phone picture diet works for multiple reasons:

1. Everyone has a cell phone.
2. The Japanese like customized, hands-on advice from a trustworthy human much more than the read-the-directions-on-the-box approach that is commonly used in the US.
3. This way, they can still eat whatever the hell they want in the meantime, plus or minus a few things that might be too salty or fatty.

Link (Thanks, Rog!)

24K Gold $300 Facial


No, this is not a picture of a display case at the Egyptian Mummy Museum. This is an actual human, a Japanese human that’s very much alive, and is in the middle of being pampered with this 24 karat gold facial which costs 30,000 yen. (Close to $300) Not bad for a gold treatment, I’d say–a normal facial could easily cost $100. It’s a bargain, whoopee!!

If this looks worth the money to you, this treatment will be available from beauty treatment company Umo Inc. soon. (UMO is a play on words with UFO, standing for Unidentified Micro-particle Object.)

New Cancer Tech Based On Dog’s Nose


Japan’s greatest new cancer detector is this 5 year old black lab named Marine. Marine can distinguish up to 18 different types of cancer just from sniffing a human’s breath, but there’s more: this year, Japanese biomimetics company Seems Inc. is coming out with a portable, cell-phone-sized sensor that mechanically replicates this dog’s olfactory skills. The device is slated to come out within six months and will be sold for under 10,000 yen. Now that’s pretty affordable and awesome.

via the Japan Times (Thanks, Mary!)

Hello Kitty Air Filter


Just when you think you’ve had enough of this damn mouthless kitty (for the 100th time), they come out with yet another annoyingly kitschy yet actually quite practical Hello Kitty product. This one, coming out at the end of this month, is a portable air filter. It works the same way as those sleek, silver, super expensive air filters they sell at Sharper Image, using negative ions. It comes with straps so you can put it on the seat of a car or in a baby’s crib. That is, if you really want your baby to be constantly exposed to Kitty.

Sanrio Corp [via Impress Watch (Japanese)]

Taspo RFID Card For Cigarette Vending Machines


Big news for underage smokers: You won’t be able to buy cigarettes on the streets anymore.  A new system, called "Taspo" (Tabacco Passport), goes into effect in 2008, requiring every smoker to carry around an RFID card issued only to people 18 and over if they want to make a cigarette vending machine purchase. Cards will be issued for free (plus whatever amount of money you put on it), but purchase will require a photo ID and other identification documents.

Currently, 65% of the 30 million smokers in Japan purchase their cigarettes through vending machines, so this is a big step in the Tobacco Institute of Japan‘s initiative to raise awareness on the dangers of smoking. 

USB Face Mask Cleaner


It’s not unusual to see commuters and office workers wearing face masks out in public. It’s a perfect deterrent for germs and pollen in cities packed with weird vegetation and people who could be carrying who-knows-what. So why is this woman wearing this mask looking surprised? Actually, this is a look of happy disbelief. Homegirl’s sporting a USB-powered face mask cleaner, which has air vents that blows clean air into the tiny threads within the mask, cleaning them out and making it easier to breathe. Just plug into your computer, turn the switch on, and you’re guaranteed fresh air throughout the workday.

Product page (Japanese)

Don’t Take Tamiflu

A side story to the pill box posted below: I don’t recommend carrying around Tamiflu on your cellie. It’s known to make kids suicidal. yesterday, a 14-year old girl jumped to her death at her apartment in Aichi Prefecture after being given some Tamiflu at a hospital that morning. Apparently, this is not the first time this has happened:

have been several reports of bizarre behavior in children who have
taken Tamiflu, including leaping from buildings or jumping in front of
oncoming cars. However, no causal relationship with the drug has been proven.

So, yeah. Just don’t take Tamiflu if you’re a borderline depressed kid.


Water That Makes You Skinny


This alkaline ion water product has calcium carbonate, tourmaline from Brazil, and some other magical ingredients that have a slimming effect when dissolved in tap water. All you have to do is ingest 1.5 liters of it a day–in coffee, for cooking rice, for drinking water–and the components will eliminate extra fat, increase metabolism, and burn calories. 

Apparently, it’s pretty popular in Taiwan. If anyone’s tried it, let me know if it works!

Link (Thanks, Alyssa!)

Device allows paralyzed people to “talk” with their brains.

A new device from Hitachi allows severely paralyzed people to "talk" via measurements of changes in their cerebral blood flow. The device, called "Kokoro Gatari" (Mind Talk), aims to help those with Lou Gehrig’s disease communicate, and will be presented at a symposium on Sunday.

Cerebral blood flow increases when people intentionally think about something. The doctor who invented this device instructs patients to do math calculations in their head when they want to say "yes" and to relax their thoughts when they want to say "no."

Full story here.

Portable Ashtray Museum

In Japan, smoking is treated more as an environmental problem than a health problem. In the past few years, laws banning street smoking in certain districts have been passed, and designated smoking booths have popped up all over major cities. The Osaka municipal government claims to have spent 10 million yen last year on cleaning up cigarette butts off the street. That’s why Japan Tobacco–the world’s #3 tobacco company–is trying to revamp the image of smoking to be something trendy and clean.

This is Japan Tobacco’s new Mobile Ashtray Museum, part of the company’s latest campaign for "clean" smoking. It sells over 300 kinds of portable ashtrays. Apparently, 70% of Japanese smokers own one, and 27% carry theirs around for daily use. The goal of JT’s campaign is to up the latter figure to 30% by the end of next year.

Keep checking back for more featured mobile ashtrays! Read more here.

Hokkaido lawyers sue California water heater company.

A group of Japanese lawyers are preparing to file a lawsuit against California company Paloma Industries for carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the company’s gas water heaters.

In July, the Ministry of Trade released a report documenting numerous cases of death by Paloma over the past decade. 10 people had died in Hokkaido from using these "tankless" heating devices in their homes.

The Japanese by nature tend to avoid conflict, so I was surprised by this initiative to challenge a bunch of sue-happy Americans in a court of law. It’s kinda like if Napoleon Dynamite fought Mike Tyson in a boxing ring. In any case, I’m rooting for the underdog.

Pressure-point-pusher and instant-stretcher machine.

See all those little white bubbles on the colorful illo of your two feet? Those are all  strategically placed to titillate your pressure points. The angled platform allows you to stretch out your calves, thighs, and back. Just standing on it for one minute a day (while you brush your teeth, or watch the weather forecast) gets you in better shape and rids your body of existing aches and pains.

I’ve been kinda lazy about exercising lately, so I think I want one. They’re 5,800 yen here.

Wonder Beat’s wonderful massage.

I just had the best massage of my life! If you are ever in Tokyo and have 6000 yen and one hour to kill, I would head over to Yebisu Garden Place for a no-frills, no-nonsense shiatsu session with Mr. Hirano. I’m sure everyone else there is just as good but this man really knew what he was doing. I just want to float off into Happyland now, but I thought I’d share the experience before I do.
The place is called Wonder Beat.

Coming soon: high-tech devices for blind and deaf people.

Japan’s Ministry of Health just launched a major collaborative effort with 10+ companies and research institutes to create highly exportable, high-tech devices for people with hearing and vision disabilities, including one that will instantly translate spoken words into cell phone text messages for the hearing impaired. Hitachi and IBM already have gadgets that will read web sites, but nothing that reads printed text from magazines.

Once these awesome devices are created, the Ministry will start by promoting them to local and regional governments, which are created by law to assist the hearing and vision impaired. A total of 270,000 Japanese fit this category.

The robotic chick in the picture is Hitachi’s animated sign language woman.

Full story here.

Finally, a clean place for dirty men to get a quickie makeover.

Yes, it’s finally here, a one-stop shop for all salarymen who need a quick fixer-upper before a business meeting or a date with his illegitimate girlfriend. Nestled inconspicuously in between a pharmacy and a convenience store in salaryman-infested Jimbocho, Menza offers everything from manicures to finger exercise sessions to one-minute advice on whether their facial hair is aptly shaven. The salaryman pictured above paid 300 yen to get a spritz of deodorant from the lovely lady in salmon pink.