COUNTERCULTURE

Lost pet? No sweat — except in the tub

by Yoko Hani and Setsuko Kamiya

You may think you’ve got just about everything for your pet — from brand-name waterproofs and jewelry to its weekly trips to a pet cafe and yoga classes. Now, though, there’s a new out-of-this-world accessory for the pet owner with everything: the no-hiding-place collar.

The gadget, which can be fitted round a pet’s neck, features a global-positioning system that will tell you straightaway just where to go to find your missing pooch or kitty — or even a roaming rabbit, according to the maker, Secom Co.

Secom, a Tokyo-based security company, began marketing its positioning service, called Koko Secom, two years ago to counter car theft and kidnappings. So far, it has sold some 170,000 units around the country.

“Ever since we started the Koko Secom service, people have been asking us to provide a similar service for pets,” said Norihiko Yoshida, a Secom spokesman. “But initially, it was difficult because the terminal unit was too big for dogs to carry around.”

Now, though, the company has succeeded in developing “the world’s smallest and lightest” GPS terminal, which measures 7.9 cm by 4.3 cm by 1.8 cm, and weighs a mere 48 grams — making it suitable for even small animals.

After fitting their pets with one of these devices, owners can find out where they are — either from a map they can call up on the Internet or by contacting Secom’s service center. The fee to register is 5,000 yen, with 800 yen payable per month thereafter. A set comprising an extra battery, a battery charger and an AC adapter is also available for 5,900 yen. Unlike the service the company offers for missing cars, however, the Koko Secom package for pets does not include them actually retrieving the missing mutt or moggy.

Perhaps that’s as well, because GPS pet-catchers might be as numerous as the men who stand around supervising roadworks if the boom in dog-ownership, alone, continues. In fact, the roughly 6 million pet dogs now registered with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, represent a 30-percent increase in just the last 10 years.

At present, when a pet goes missing, owners are usually told to inquire at neighboring police stations as well as their area’s animal center where stray dogs are held. Although data on the total number of missing dogs is not available, in Tokyo alone about 2,500 were looked after at the city’s Dobutsu Aigo Sodan Center (animal-protection center) between April 2001 and March 2002. And, with more and more households now including animal companions, Secom’s new product should help ensure both the pets’ security and the owners’ peace of mind, Yoshida said. (Y.H.)

Open any women’s magazine to a feature on fitness, and you’ll more than likely find yourself being urged to make maximum use of your time in the bath. “Taking a bath is not just for relaxation,” they say. “Depending on how you do it, it can be a good way to get fit and healthy, too.”

What you’re being encouraged to try is hanshinyoku or koshiyu — which involves immersing yourself only up to your waist instead of your shoulders in the usual bathtime way. To do this, you are told to fill the tub just over halfway with water at a little less than 40 degrees . . . and get in.

What happens then is that you perspire — while your body warms up from the inside. “Hanshinyoku activates your metabolism, and it will make you clean from the inside,” one magazine assures. Also, it explained, as the water pressure on the body is less than when soaking yourself all the way to your shoulders, hanshinyoku won’t cause your blood pressure to rise. This enables you to stay in the bath tub longer without feeling dizzy afterward. In fact, it’s a perfect time to read.

Speaking from experience, hanshinyoku does make you sweat — though it’s nothing like going to a sauna. And when you do it in winter, your top half gets cold — which is a problem, especially when the book is good. By the time you get out, you often feel that there must be a better way to do this.

As if somewhere in the realm of bathroom design, someone read the minds of the thousands of people like me, a new bath unit specifically designed to deliver a happy and effective hanshinyoku — and which it’s claimed will make you sweat twice as much — is set to be launched on Sept. 16.

Called “Furopia — Hakkan Seikatsu (Bathtopia — Perspiration Living),” this promises an experience akin to taking a hanshinyoku and a sauna together. And it’s pretty high-tech.

To begin with, though, you half-fill the tub with hot water in the conventional way and sit in it with your legs straight. But then things take a novel turn, as you slide the lid on top of the bath tub to cover everything except your head. With the lid closed, hot mist (at around 40 degrees) automatically comes out of vents inside the tub so that, in no time at all, you start to sweat. And there’s no worrying about getting cold. If you still want to read, there’s a special cape that allows you to do so while perspiring.

Meanwhile, to keep you comfortable, a cool breeze wafts over your face from an air-conditioning device installed above the tub. And for those really sold on this concept, the makers also offer an optional wall-mounted, waterproof, liquid-crystal TV with FM radio. It comes with a remote control device, of course.

According to the manufacturer, TOTO Ltd., this new bathroom unit is priced between 1.19 million yen and 1.98 million yen — though with the cost of using it estimated at just 15 yen per hakkanyoku (perspiration bathing), there will be nothing to stop owners lingering long and often in their new-fangled bath.

TOTO, by the way, is the firm that revolutionized Japanese toilets with its high-tech “Washlet” bidet-type commodes. It is also the one that made the “Shower Dresser” faucet heads that make life easier for those who asashan (wash their hair in the morning). Could their new product become another regular feature of daily living in Japan? (S.K.)