Many of us possess all the culinary abilities of an aardvark. Bandai Namco is not about to have Michelin knocking on our doors to try out for its restaurant guide, but it at least promises to enable us to make sushi. The toy maker does this with its new automatic sushi roller. The little orange machine looks a bit like one of the manual washing machines with two rolling pins that were used in ancient times B.E. (before electricity). You simply load up the little orange machine with seaweed, rice and whatever other ingredients you opt for, crank the rollers, and out come the product of hours spent at cooking school. The suggested price is ¥2,940, with more information at www.bandainamco.co.jp/releases/2007062102.html. An ingenious device, as long as you aren’t allergic to seafood.
Soba made easy: Takara Tomy is getting its slice of the action in aids for the cooking technique-challenged with its home soba making toy. Again, the idea is to keep it simple to the point of absurdity. Basically a black plastic box with a red bowl and handle, you simply put soba powder and water in the bowl, crank the handle and the gadget does the hard work of mixing the ingredients to produce ready-to-eat soba noodles. The device is due to hit the market in late October.
Gun to your head: Except for the terminally egotistic — at least those with flowing manes to manicure — using a hair dryer provides as much enjoyment as brushing your teeth. Nodoya might not turn the act of drying your follicles into after-dinner entertainment but it does manage to put a bit of fun into it with its new hair dryer. Rather than a utilitarian heater, this device looks like a revolver, complete with handle, barrel and trigger. Just hold the barrel to your head and squeeze the trigger. It comes with blue or pink handles and you pull back the hammer to adjust the settings. It costs ¥4,200, with more information at www.nodaya-net.com/11438.htm. Taking it in your carry-on baggage might provide some unintended airport amusement, although the power cord coming out of the end of the handle is a bit of a giveaway.
The right stuff: Picking the right toy to give a child as a gift, without first extracting junior’s preference with some harmless fourth-degree discussions, is akin to divining the future via tea leaves. Apparently legions of Japanese parents in years gone by should have stuck to their cups as they failed to get the right toy robot for Christmas. This lead to kids wailing, “Kore ja nai” (word extended, exclamation marks added according to your taste), or in English, “This is not it.” One enterprising company, ZariganiWorks (www.zariganiworks.co.jp/korejanairobo/), even brought out a toy robot dubbed the “Korejanai Robo,” the one you didn’t want. The unwanted toy acquired a cult following. So much so that we now have the Korejanai Robo USB drive from SolidAlliance. Looking just like a miniature version of the parody hit, the drive otherwise functions as a standard computer accessory with a modest 256 megabytes of memory. The unit is priced at ¥7,329, with details at item.rakuten.co.jp/sastore/korejanairobo/.
The cat’s whiskers?: Unfortunately for some, there is no parody in the Hello Kitty microwave, a standard device decorated with the notorious feline’s mug shot. Fans can fork over ¥36,540. See shop.sanrio.jp/cm/cmc-682047/.
Wii option: Jumping on the Nintendo Wii bandwagon is Thrustmaster with its T-Wireless NW game pad, in effect an alternative controller to the Wii’s standard set with a rather retro design. The game pad communicates with the game console via a 2.4 gigahertz wireless dongle that is connected to the Wii, allowing you a range of up to 9 meters — somewhat larger than the average apartment living room. It’s due out in October with a price in the region of ¥2,000 or so, with more information at au.gear.ign.com/articles/819/819888p1.html.
Talk to the hand: Fujitsu is catering to a whole different trend with its PalmSecure mouse. Deciding, for whatever reason, that using fingerprints isn’t enough, Fujitsu’s computer helper has to be unlocked with a scan of your the veins in your palm, similar to some ATMs. Maybe computer security would be better addressed with antivirus software and the like, but at least it offers some peace of mind.
Crazy pics: Photographers are a different species to the norm, but in terms of innovative impulses, some of the people who design cameras are in a category of their own. Franziska Faoro makes this point with his Triops digital camera. Looking like a ball with three odd eyes stuck on it, this picture creator sports a trio of fish-eye lenses and is designed as a robust package that allows for some seriously different photography: It can take images while being thrown, suspended or just left in an odd location. It snaps away in response to sound or movement, or through a manually operated release. Sequences can be taken, as well as 360-degree panorama images. The pictures can then be transmitted wirelessly to a display unit, which also functions as a storage device and charging station. Its colors include orange, black and white. Just radical.