Japanese cuisine does for seafood what French wineries do for the gift of the grape. But what it does for bread is more akin to the imposition the English have made on the world’s palate. The alleged loaf consisting of six thick white slices with not a crust in sight at either end of it, and apparently consisting of ingredients shorn of all taste and nutritional virtue, is a culinary crime only too common in supermarkets here. Thankfully, there are options. Making your own bread is probably not one of them. It’s a bit like building your own car when there are people who are paid to do it for you. But National might get a few more DIY chefs into the kitchen with its SD-BT153 automated home bakery. The device looks like a rather tall rice cooker and in fact works pretty much like one — except that it cooks bread. You simply put your ingredients — butter, sugar, water, yeast — into the silver container, close the lid and press the button. The device’s menu lets you pick what cereal concoction you want, such as French bread or a regular loaf. It can also whip up pasta, cake and, what a gift, mochi. If your taste runs to raisin bread there’s a special tray for nuts and raisins that will distribute them evenly in the bread as it cooks. This is what the Nobel Prize was created for. More information is available at the site ctlg.national.jp/product/info.do?pg=04&hb=SD-BT153
Whiskers away: No guy can get through life without either a) forgetting to shave in the morning, or b) perhaps due to the night before, having to forgo the pleasure of the morning ritual and head to the office in disheveled mode. The irrepressible Thanko is catering to those moments of grooming distress with the USB-powered (what else?) iShaver. A typical portable size, it has six blades each on twin rotary disks, comes with an easy cleaning kit and costs 1,240 yen. Check it out at www.thanko.jp/ishaver.html
Transported in style: Failure to trim one’s facial follicles is just one reason for fronting up to a working day looking less than premium. Another is the fetish among some to pedal two wheels instead of riding the rails as their method of commuting to the office. This urge stems from some misguided belief that inhaling traffic fumes will make one healthier. Panasonic’s Cycle Web Studio is not out to judge you but to make it easier with its new electric bicycle. Rather than the rather clunky versions that are targeted at those tied to domestic chores, this one aims to blend street fashion with motocross style. Panasonic worked with Harajuku fashion brand Beams to produce the resultant fashion statement with just 200 limited edition units, in orange and green, for sale. They can only be bought from Panasonic’s “bikes are cool and so are we” Cycle Studio Web site at www.cycle-webstudio.jp/limited/index.html. The people movers measure 55 by 160 cm and weigh in at about 20 kg. They run on nickel metal hydride batteries, which last about two hours or around 30 km.
They’re just like us: Why is so much effort going in to making robots that look, and even act like people? Are we just unable to cope with mechanical creations that don’t ape us, just serve us? Well the need to humanize our inorganic ones goes beyond just industrial machines. Sega Toys is going for the human factor with its Hako Robo (Robots in a Cube). Basically cubes painted different colors and with faces on them, these cute desktop accessories actually mimic family relationships. As soon as you let them out to play they either move together, or apart, or line up with the top dogs first and the others following behind — just like real people do. The basic set has mom and pop and the family dog with other combinations, including the kids of course and their siblings, also available. Capping off the similarity to homo sapiens, no matter how much they like other if they spend too much time together they get stressed out and exhausted, so you have to put them away again in their boxes before they pass out. More information is available at www.hakorobo.com/
Plug and play: Yamaha has come up with its own version of digital music with its latest electronic piano, the PSR-S900. The instrument packs the regulation keyboard with electronic bells and whistles, including a USB port and Ethernet connection so you can hook it up to your computer. You can download up to 2,000 compositions or 7,000 karaoke arrangements onto the piano. It also includes a 5.7-inch VGA monitor. The flagship S900 is expected to go on sale from June for 220,500 yen with two lesser-spec siblings (the S700 and S500) going for 131,250 yen and 78,750 yen respectively.
Chalk this one up: Pity the poor keitai. Beyond the 7/24 working conditions we impose on them, consider how we have burdened them with all manner of objects masquerading as straps. The latest hanger-on does go for the cuteness factor in a clever and maybe even useful way. This strap from Strapya sports a miniature chalkboard, piece of chalk and a traditional Japanese chalkboard eraser, made of wood. At 2,500 yen a pen and notebook might be cheaper but at least this is a different way to write a reminder note for yourself, or just to doodle away the train trip. It is available from online retailer Rakuten at item.rakuten.co.jpkeitai/94-a00064-s001-set/