Teddy bears might be the tradi tional cute characters of choice but the animal shape of the moment in Japan is undoubtedly the penguin. This is in no small part due to JR’s Suica card advertising campaigns. Sega Toys are not a company to miss a trend and so, perhaps in tribute to the animated movie “Happy Feet,” have followed up their iDog ad iFish robot toys with the iPenguin. The 12-cm tall robot flightless bird connects to your iPod and dances to the beat. Beyond its balletic prowess the iPenguin also feels happy or sad depending on what music you have playing. Just tap its beak twice while the tune is on and it expresses its feelings by flashing off and on the multicolored LED light display on its chest. Presumably its musical tastes are in line with those of its owner. The nimble-footed avian is coming out on July 26 with a price tag of 2,940 yen. It runs on three AAA batterie with more information available at www.segatoys.co.jp
Tap on wood: Hard-core nature lovers either keep their fingers off the uber artificiality of computers or close their eyes and dream of the forest. While a truly natural computer is either many years off, or will never lose its status as a pipe dream, Marubeni Infotec is planning on doing its bit in the meantime. The company recently put on display at a trade show a wooden keyboard, apparently a standard accessory except for the choice of materials. The ensemble was completed with a selection of USB 2.0 flash drives, a multicard reader and a four-port USB hub — all decked out in the makings of dead trees.
Fanning the flames: Smoking is one of the few compulsive behaviors to rival keitai usage for addictive prowess. Now, perish the thought that I would encourage the unfortunate habit of indulging in cancer sticks, but this meeting of obsessions is just too good to pass on. Nodoya has crafted a cigarette lighter that looks just like a mobile phone, albeit on the small side. The beastie even opens up like a regular communicator and displays a suitably cute dolphin screen saver on the front. It costs 399 yen and comes in five colors with more information from www.nodaya-net.com/keitai3liter.htm. I trust that nobody will confuse form with function, with unfortunate consequences.
Faking it: Metaphys takes us from a flame maker masquerading as something else to artificial fire. The interior design store has come out with the hono, a lighting fixture that comes on when you strike it with a “match,” a special starter made for the hono. It looks a bit like an elongated cigarette, with bands of orange and yellow “flame” on top. The hono is 27 cm in height and 1.6 cm across and costs 9,975 yen from www.metaphys.jp/store/index_shop. It can stand alone on rechargeable batteries for up to eight hours, or you can hook it up to the mains power for that eternal flame feeling.
Brush with convenience: Appearances aren’t so much deceptive as downright liars these days. Judging by outside appearances the OHSO toothbrush is a smart-looking pen, complete with clip for holding it in place in your pocket. But take the top off and its true identity as a traveler’s hygiene aid is revealed. A further neat twist is that the tooth paste is stored in the base of the device. Just turn the knob and the tooth paste comes out on the brushes ready for use. It also comes with a small window so you can keep track of when you need a refill. The brush comes in chrome or clear finishes with replacement brush heads available and instructions on how to load it up directly from ordinary toothpaste tubes. The device costs $19.99 and is available at: https://www.go-ohso.com/oStore/index.html?MED=&REP= Now if only it could help you to fill in all those immigration forms foisted upon us during our flights . . .
Nintendo becomes even harder to get: As anybody who has made a tour of Tokyo electronics stores in a fruitless search for stocks of either the Wii or DS Lite to splash out on, Nintendo is not in need of more marketing success for its game consoles. But how can Pokemon fans be left wanting? Nintendo is bringing out a Pikachu-yellow DS Lite, complete with an etching of Pikachu on the device’s lower right-hand corner. Even the stylus comes in a matching yellow hue. In the spirit of having to rely on chance to acquire the regular version, the Pikachu model is being produced only as a limited edition. In order to pick up one of these collectibles you have to visit the Japanese Pokemon Center on July 20 and try your luck at a lottery. And fork over 16,800 yen if you are one of the lucky few. The Pokemon fans can find out more at: www.pokemon.co.jp/info/pokemon/p070601_02.html