No craze is complete without its own gadgets. This new Sudoku aid looks just like another Japanese obsession — the “keitai” — with players using the number keypad to enter their sudoku answers. It costs ¥1,029, with more information available at item.rakuten.co.jp/wnd-minakuru/4582256_900052/. If nothing else it allows you to indulge your love of the numbers without giving the game away.
Multitasking watch: Watches are reportedly falling from grace in Japan, as people prefer to use the ubiquitous mobile phone as timepieces. These watches from Brando might not restore the specialist timekeepers to their position of favor but they at least do their own version of the multimedia game. The MP4 Watch functions as a music player, FM radio, voice recorder, photo album and e-book reader, with files downloaded via the great essential, USB. The flash memory options of 2 gigabytes and 4 gigabytes are generous enough but the 1.8-inch screen might be a little lacking for photos and e-books. It does, however, have the decency to perform as a digital watch. More information is available at usb.brando.com.hk/prod_detail.php?prod_id=00335.
For the alien in you: Rather than taking the Swiss Army knife approach, Sea Hope is relying on pure entertainment in its bid to keep the watch alive. One of its models offers up some familiar symbols for radioactivity as its basic face, with the time offered as a side dish. The second takes imagination even a step further. The timepiece purports to tell you what proportion of your DNA is alien. One for the reality challenged. These and other creations of nimble minds can be checked out at http://seahope.com/.
Crushing fun: Resorting to practicality for its appeal is this product that looks like a green frog with legs that mean its owner would never need stilts, the device is actually a can crusher. You just put the recycling candidate between the frog’s legs and step on the top of it, thus making the amphibian squat down on the can and crush it into something compact. The unit costs ¥2,604 at cataloger.jp/shopping/productDetail.do?id=8193.
Solar sounds: Sticking with the green theme is the Boblbee Weatherproof iPod Solar Docking Case, a solar recharger for iPods. Looking rather like a curved clam shell keitai, the charger is a natty-looking case, offering light blue and black models, sporting solar cells lining its curved top. You simply put your iPod inside the weatherproof case and hang it on your belt, nature does the work with an LCD panel to let you keep tabs on the progress. It includes two audio jacks so you can tune in without taking your music maker out of the recharger, which serves as protective case for your iPod. More information is available at www.boblbee.co.jp/products/Solar.php.
Sound of movement: In a turnabout of the usual custom of moving your body to the music, the Pioneer MT01 stereo sound system is rigged up to play music when it detects movement. Draped in smart white casing that makes it as much decoration as entertainer, (a favored concept these days?), the system features a stereo, two speakers and a remote. Pricing and release date are unknown at this point.
Love me, love my computer: I suppose even computers need affection, although I have always favored tough love, but this is maybe going too far. Solid Alliance has come up with a heart-shaped computer mouse that says “I love you” whenever you press its scroll wheel. It is available for ¥1,980 in red and pink at www.rakuten.co.jp/sastore/1804291/. The Valentine’s Day gift for geeks.
Will it ever end?: Another item that depends more on lonely hearts than functionality for its appeal is a lineup of Yong-sama keitai charms from Strapya featuring little figurines of the bespectacled South Korean alleged heartthrob. They are available for ¥1,050 at www.strapya-world.com/products/6747.html/. Some of us yearn for the day when this particular fad has run its course.
Just push the button: Stress, whether it stems from romance or some more mundane frustration, is a menace. SolidAlliance has come up with one weirdly appealing solution. Dubbed the USB Stress Button, it looks like a slightly comic big red plastic button, emblazoned with the word “STRESS,” that plugs into your computer via USB. The device comes in three modes: explosion, punchout and work sheet. Each time you push the button it alternates between the three modes. In explosion mode your computer screen starts counting down before ending in a monstrous animated explosion. When it is operating in punchout mode, a character’s face appears on the screen, then the face is destroyed to the tune of hard-core punching sound effects. Finally, the worksheet mode puts a fake spreadsheet on your screen, for the boss’s benefit. The unit costs ¥2,480 with more details available at: http://www.solidalliance.com/press/press.html#0808. Quite possibly a work of art.