Saitama Prefecture has always been overshadowed by Tokyo, its bigger and glitzier neighbor to the south that is also the capital of Japan. But Saitama, sometimes referred to by its unflattering nickname Dasai-tama (dasai means uncool), is in fact home to a number of small manufacturing businesses developing innovative medical tools and equipment.
According to health ministry statistics, Saitama ranked fourth in 2015 for the value of its medical equipment output among Japan's 47 prefectures, at ¥116 billion. That is quite a feat considering that Saitama has no major player such as Terumo Corp. — which has large manufacturing bases in Shizuoka Prefecture. Shizuoka ranks No. 1 for medical equipment output, valued at ¥370 billion the same year.
The Saitama Prefectural Government, well aware of the financial constraints faced by small businesses, started providing subsidies in 2014 to firms researching and developing medical products. At a recent event in Tokyo, the prefecture showcased some of their products — ranging from carbon-flame exoskeletons for people who have suffered a spinal cord injury and a breathing training device for people with rare neurological diseases, to mock organs for surgeons in training made from tofu and konnyaku (devil's tongue jelly).