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Here are five made-in-Japan ideas and innovations you may have missed, to inspire your weekend (not made-up belated April Fools pranks):

  • FamilyMart has opened an even-more-convenient store with an unmanned payment system near Tokyo Station. Over 40 cameras at the new shop will identify the items picked up and held by customers, who will be able to pay after standing in a designated zone where the bill is calculated automatically.
  • The head of a cardboard manufacturer, Yoshihiro Mizutani, wants to improve the quality of evacuation centers and keep people warm — with cardboard beds. Mizutani got the idea after seeing older people suffering from hypothermia at shelters in Tohoku after the 3/11 disaster 10 years ago. They are simple, cheap, durable, healthy and safe, Mizutani says. (The homeless people around Shinjuku Station may beg to differ.)
Nattō (fermented soybeans) wrapped in rice straw that was launched from a balloon into the stratosphere at an altitude of some 20,000 meters above sea level are seen against the backdrop of Earth and space. | SPACE BALLOON INC. / VIA KYODO
Nattō (fermented soybeans) wrapped in rice straw that was launched from a balloon into the stratosphere at an altitude of some 20,000 meters above sea level are seen against the backdrop of Earth and space. | SPACE BALLOON INC. / VIA KYODO
  • Online fashion retailer Zozo has launched skin tone measuring glasses for ordering cosmetics online. “Zozoglass” — spectacles covered with color swatches and markers — detects skin tone when scanned with a smartphone for tailored recommendations on the Zozotown e-shopping site. Meanwhile, a successor to Zozo’s flawed body-measuring “Zozosuit” is coming soon.
  • Just spray and spacewalk: A safe-to-swallow toothpaste alternative developed by a Japanese startup and manufactured by people with mental disabilities has been selected as a candidate for use by astronauts at the International Space Station. Japanese astronauts are calling it “refreshing.”
  • A firm in Ibaraki is taking orders for an out-of-this-world service that will fly your stuff high into the stratosphere and capture images of the items against the backdrop of Earth and space. And no, you can’t send your cat up there. But you can send sticky, stinky beans, as Space Balloon Inc. demonstrated.

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