Astounding Examples of Innovation from Japan

I traveled to Japan last year with some friends, and was astounded by the differences there. Everyday things from trash cans to doors to conveyerbelts were just... better, let alone the high-tech things like trains and computers.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I remembered reading that some authors claimed in their books that Japanese are not good in doing thing for themselves (innovation) but from gallery of pictures above, I see that they are capable more than what these pessimistic authors have wrote.

ur collection really opened my eyes for japanese people.keep the good work up…

@Abdul: Yep, don’t believe everything you read :slight_smile:

@Robin: Thanks, it’s amazing what you can do with “simple” everyday things.

I live in Japan now, and you’ve pointed out some of the best. My personal favorite though is the everyday household toilet paper dispenser. It has two knobs on either side with springs; you can push them up but not pull them down. This means to change the roll, you just push the old roll up and out, then add the new roll by pushing it up into the thing. Replacing the toilet has never been so fun—or fast!

Hi Gerbs, thanks for the info! Wow, that’s great – I didn’t have a chance to see those, but would definitely have photographed it :).

Wow, those pics were excellent.
really creativity is the father of INVENTION

Thanks Zujar, glad you liked it. Yes, and sometimes necessity (i.e. not having much space) is the mother!

I just stumbled on this post. The Japanese are amazingly clever when it comes to design. Like someone else said, it gives lie to the idea that they are not very innovative. Even more mind-blowing that these items are the shows on Japanese TV that feature either house building (that blow away anything in the American version because space actually is at a premium in Japan) or competitions between paper-folding champions, or maze builders or anything you can think of. Japanese seem to have figured out how to master things that Americans just take for granted.

Oddly enough, I find the Germans work the same way. They are incredibly talented at detail-oriented work. Find something small that annoys you? Engineer a solution.

Light comes into your room in the morning? Create blinds that block out ALL light. (Google image search for “Rolladen”)

Ballpoints suck? Make fountain pens with standardized ink cartridges. Also, the ink can be made invisible with one end of a corrector pen, whose other end is ink that can be written over the now-invisible mistake.

Shocked yourself while unplugging something? German ones are recessed and designed so it doesn’t happen (“Steckdose”).

Hate waiting at red lights at night? Traffic circle.

The country doesn’t even have door knobs; door handles (that you can easily use with prosthetic limbs) are universal here. Things are more handicap accessible; there’s more braille.

In the stairwell of an apartment, you push the lights button and it stays on for two or three minutes and then goes back out. Newer buildings have sensors and light automatically.

Germans are good at finding small things that annoy them or waste energy and then engineering a solution, much like the Japanese. If only we would complain less and fix more.

@Eric: I agree – there are some really funny/intricate pranks as well :).

@Andrew: That’s interesting! I’ve never been to Germany but I’ll keep an eye out if I’m ever there.

A lot of people poo-poo micro-optimizations with “What’s the point?”. But I don’t think they see the cumulative effect, and how removing many small frustrations can make tasks pleasant. Even making a sandwich would be tiresome without pre-sliced bread.

Wow! Thanks for the exposure about the japanease ingenuity! And your photography and observation is pretty neat too!

@Karan: Thanks, glad you liked it!

I live in Croatia and travel a lot around Europe. Most things you outlined here are in fact quite commonplace in Europe, and some even in my country (far from developed). The exception being the space toilet :slight_smile:

  1. Cartoon signs - really, quite common for pretty much everything
  2. Swiveling seats - existing, but rare
  3. Simple and active underground maps including scrolling info and even video info in public transport - all around Germany
  4. Vertical parking - funny, I’ve first seen those in New York, USA :slight_smile:
  5. Efficient bike parking - in Denmark, you even have your bike’s seat protected from rain when you park it :slight_smile:
  6. Additional rear view mirrors - several different designs exist
  7. Fair pricing - European consumer protection is quite good - it’s illegal in most countries to hide any portion of the final price from the consumer
  8. Automated ordering - not common, but I’ve seen it
  9. Horizontal escalators - already boring :slight_smile:

Having said all that, I find Finland to top everything shown here - their civil engineering and innovation in everyday items is simply mind blowing. I’d elaborate on that, but this comment is already too long :slight_smile:

Oh, I almost forgot, we also have motion sensor operated paper towel and soap dispensers, taps and flushing pretty much everywhere nowadays. Also disposable toilet seat covers in easy to deploy shapes :slight_smile:

@Mladen: Thanks for the info! I haven’t visited Europe that much (it’s on my list) so I’ll definitely be on the lookout. I’m just amazed at how long it takes some of these “everyday” things to make their way to the US ;).

Phone thing was too far-fetched. Even in india 12 mp phones are available.

@Anon: Yep, phones may have caught up – it was pretty cool back in 2006.

motion sensor lights…

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No doubt the innovations are good.In India,I have attended some innovation workshops.Mental aptitude and passion for invention are abundant in many people. Our country leaders are keen in securing power seats and holding tight to amass wealth for what,no body knows,than to genuinely think the importance of education and invention and how to support them for the coutry’s economy and capability.
I hold two national patents and two WIPO publications for global applications
Please let me know how sanitary napkins are disposed?