Your new best friend

If Japan is the land of the robots, as the international media would have us believe, then maybe it’s time to get a little robotic friend of your own for the home. AIBO’s days may have passed, but that’s all right as its various incarnations never looked as good as the new MANOI PF01 from Kyosho’s one-fifth scale athlete humanoid series. The name alone — the letters PF stand for PerFormance — promises a level of interactivity and movement beyond what we’ve previously seen in the world of hobby robots, and the new lithium polymer battery keeps it going longer than its predecessor, last year’s AT01. To simple actions like standing and walking, you can add more complex lifelike gestures that can be programmed on a PC. It isn’t cheap at just under ¥200,000, but can you really put a price on robotic love? Check out PF01, as well most of Kyosho’s lineup of remote-control cars and other toys for hobbyists, at their Omotesando Hills store.

(03) 5785-0280; kyosho.com

Words from wood

Outside of Japan, fall means back to school for many, which is excuse enough to stock up on some new stationery. The pens and pencils are always a must-have, so here’s a look at the MACINARI-TAKUMI collection of wooden scribblers, designed by Housei Suzuki for IDEA International. The TAKUMI brand has already offered other products in wood, such as the popular TO:CA digital clocks, so it’s no surprise to see the same expertise brought to writing implements. The attractive series of ball pens and mechanical pencils is stunning and comes in an array of colors (natural, yellow, red, purple, and brown) that makes it easy to match them up with the rest of your desktop accessories. At ¥3,000-¥3,500, it’s certainly not aimed at the pre-college set, but I can see a great many grad students and office workers falling in love with these great writing tools.


Stickers not bombs

Even though product design reigns supreme in this column, I like to cover the graphic side of things as well, and this time it’s for a good cause.

POM2 is a nonprofit organization that aims to raise awareness about the more than 100 million land mines that are lying dormant in war zones around the world, killing or injuring tens of thousands annually when triggered. Their latest effort centers around what they’re calling the “Mine-Remove Sticker Program,” where the purchase of stickers goes to help finance land-mine clearing operations. To make it an irresistible proposition, they’ve gotten contributions from some of Japan’s top graphic units, with the first two in the series from Power Graphixx and Retired Weapons. The stickers sell for ¥300, and can be found at various shops and during events throughout the city. They can also be ordered online.


By the light of the bottle

I’ve covered plenty of lamps in this column, but nothing quite like designer Takao Tsunekawa’s TU-KI (¥20,000) for Flames. At first glance, the TU-KI doesn’t look like much, although it’s pleasing to the eye with its half-moon shape and clean black-walnut finish. But slide in any old bottle you may have lying around and you end up with one of the most original tabletop lights you’ve likely seen. The light shines through the bottle, reflecting whatever liquid is inside to cast various colors on your surroundings — finally a reason to get fruity with your drink selection!


Crisp chip clips

Turning to the kitchen and its many tools and accessories, the bag clip may not rank high on anyone’s list of must-haves. But there’s no denying the usefulness of the simple gadget. Even if some of you have already stocked up on bag loads of them from IKEA, design group Flask and Yamauchi Spring’s Flower Kitchen Clip might make you want to get a couple more. Shaped like a flower — which admittedly adds nothing in terms of functionality — the silver stainless-steel clips (sold in sets of three for ¥1,000) add a nice decorative touch to the standard design and can also be used as bookmarks.



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