• 町工場の技術を生かした「痛くない注射針」

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Injectors are medical devices that come into contact with our skin. The majority of injectors consist of a syringe filled with medicine and a needle. Many people hate injections due to the moment of pain experienced when the needle penetrates the skin.
    A routine blood test or flu shot may be just about the only time healthy people require an injection. Children with type one diabetes, however, need to inject themselves with insulin several times a day. With this problem in mind, MATSUNO Takao, formerly the person in charge of research and development for Terumo Corporation, wondered whether they could develop a needle that would make injections as painless as possible.
    Matsuno and his fellow engineers understood that “in order to reduce the pain, it would be necessary to make the needle thinner.” The thinner they make the needle, however, the harder it became to get the medicine to flow through it. In order to minimize pain and maximize the flow of medicine, they came to the conclusion that it was necessary to design a needle with a narrow tip and a wide shaft. But they had a hard time finding a company that would collaborate with them on this project.
    In order to find a company that could manufacture a tapered needle, Terumo Corporation’s engineers contacted and visited about a hundred companies. Finally, a small factory, Okano Manufacturing Corporation in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, agreed to take on the project. Normally, injection needles are made from a long pipe cut into a certain length. At Okano Manufacturing, however, they came up with a method of rolling individual sheets of stainless steel one at a time into a tube. So that liquids can flow through unimpeded, the inside of the needle is carefully polished. This production method can only be carried out by Okano Manufacturing.
    In 2005, by developing the world’s thinnest needle, “Nanopass” – which has a 33-gauge (0.2 millimeter) tip –they achieved what no other company had managed to before. In 2012, they broke their own record for thinnest needle by constructing an even thinner one with a 34-gauge (0.18-millimeter) tip. This was made possible by Okano Manufacturing’s press-working expertise and Terumo’s needle manufacturing technology.
    To reduce the pain of injections even further, they not only made the tip of the needle thinner, but also gave considerable thought to its design. In order to avoid that sharp twinge of pain felt the moment the needle punctures the skin, rather than simply making the tip sharper, they made it asymmetrical, so that the edge of the blade would slice into the skin.
    Those with diabetes have to have injections several times a day and this adds up to over a 1,000 injections in a year. Nanopass has been widely used to moderate the physical and emotional pain these patients go through every day. “I am glad to contribute to their medical treatment by alleviating just a little of their pain,” says Matsuno.
    Terumo Corporation
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • 間伐材を使った杉のわりばし

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Receiving a bowl of noodles from across the counter with one hand a customer uses the other to split apart a pair of chopsticks he’s been holding between his teeth and proceeds to vigorously slurp up his noodles. This familiar scene at standing soba and udon shops might one day disappear. That’s because disposable chopsticks are gradually starting to disappear from the counter.
    Plastic and lacquer chopsticks are increasingly replacing disposable ones. These days disposable chopsticks are rarely seen at family restaurants and Japanese-style bars. There are two reasons why disposable chopsticks have become less popular. The first reason is that there is a preconception that cutting down trees to make them leads to deforestation. The second is that more and more people think it’s a waste to use disposable chopsticks, because they are thrown away after only one use.
    Responding to the view that disposable chopsticks are a bad thing, YOSHII Teruo, president of Yoshiishoji, a company that sells chopsticks wholesale in Nara Prefecture, says, “Using domestically produced disposable chopsticks helps protect the environment.” Yoshino Japanese cedar is produced in the Yoshino region, where the company is located. This area is also said to be the region where disposable chopsticks originated. Originally, disposable chopsticks were made from the wood shavings created in the production of cedar sake barrels.
    Today, they are made by effectively using lumber from “forest thinning” (removing certain trees from an overcrowded forest), and “wood shavings” from timber used for construction materials. No wood is wasted. In short, the production of Yoshino chopsticks is unrelated to deforestation. “Forest thinning effectively encourages the growth of surrounding trees,” Yoshii argues. “Therefore, making chopsticks with wood from forest thinning serves the purpose of preserving and cultivating timber resources.”
    Mr. Yoshii explains the benefits of using disposable chopsticks: “Over the 20 years after they are planted, the cedar and cypress trees used for making chopsticks absorb a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide from the air. In other words, the mountain forests we humans carefully cultivate play a big role in protecting the environment we live in. It’s been calculated that a reduction of 16 grams of carbon dioxide per year is generated by using one pair of chopsticks.”
    In response to the view that disposable chopsticks are a waste, Mr. Yoshii has this to say: “Plastic or lacquered chopsticks are certainly convenient because they can be used over and over again. However, there is a cost involved in the water and detergent needed to wash them. It is important to consider this total cost, rather than the cost of a single pair of disposable chopsticks. We should also take into account the effect draining water has on the environment.”
    Disposable chopsticks are produced in other regions, of course, but the production process is mostly mechanized. However, most of the workers in the Yoshino region still continue to make them by hand to this day. Emphasizing the benefits of wooden chopsticks, Yoshii says, “Not only are chopsticks a tool for eating, but by using them, old customs and traditions are preserved. For this reason, because of their unique aroma, feel and texture, cedar chopsticks are best.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • 日本人にこそ見直してほしい日本食の長所

    [From May Issue 2014]

    Erica ANGYAL Nutrition Consultant
    “Many Japanese think their longevity and beautiful skin are due to their genetics. But that’s not the case, the traditional Japanese diet has had a huge effect,” says Erica ANGYAL. Erica is active as a nutrition consultant in her home country, Australia, and in Japan. The first time she felt the beneficial effects of Japanese food was during her high school days when she stayed for one year in Oita Prefecture as an exchange student from Australia.
    “Because I was 15 years old, I had pimples. But I was very impressed as after a month of eating my host family’s cooking, my pimples were completely gone.” She says that the experience resulted in the work she is doing now. However, she also feels that the cooking commonly seen in Japanese homes 30 years ago has changed greatly.
    “I was really surprised when I saw what young models for a magazine project actually eat.” She was shocked by the fact that most of their diets lacked critical nutrients; though meals of just jam and toast contained enough calories, the diets of these models were virtually devoid of nutrition. All through the week, many of the models only consumed ready-made meals such as bentou (lunch boxes) that can be bought at convenience stores – food that contains a lot of artificial additives and chemicals. Erica is worried that such food is addictive.
    Erica says that she regrets that there is disparity between the fact that Japanese food is receiving worldwide attention and the fact that the diet of young people in Japan is becoming westernized. The Western diet promotes weight gain and it also increases the risk of all lifestyle diseases. The traditional Japanese diet is well balanced and varied with its use of seasonal ingredients.
    But, according to Erica, this conversely caused Japan to fail to keep up with preventative nutritional science. Although time has passed and the dietary lives of people have greatly changed, knowledge of preventative nutritional science has not spread. Erica worries that this will lead to a situation in which lifestyle diseases become more common; immune systems are weakened, and gynecological problems and mental imbalance arising from hormonal imbalances increase.
    She says that the ideal Japanese meal is the breakfast served at Japanese style ryokan (inn). “The variety of items, including boiled spinach, eggs and fish, promotes good hormonal balance. Although there are people who believe that it’s possible to get adequate nutrition from eating snack foods fortified with nutrients, you won’t be receiving the amazing synergistic effect of the nutrients found in whole foods.” She says that the Japanese breakfast of vegetables and fish is now attracting attention in countries such as the U.S. and the number of celebrities adopting this diet is increasing.
    Erica feels that young women in Japan are losing the vitality that should come from within. Her advice to them is to look at their breakfast again. “It does not have to be perfect. You can add nattou (fermented beans) or an egg to your rice, or drink soy milk. I suggest that you add some protein.”
    Erica has been giving nutritional guidance to many young women including the finalists of Miss Universe Japan. Her book, written in Japanese, “Diet to Become the Most Beautiful Woman in the World” was translated into other languages and has become a bestseller. From now on she hopes to show women, particularly young Japanese women, how it’s possible to become beautiful through a good diet.
    Erica Angyal website
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年5月号掲載記事]

    栄養コンサルタント エリカ・アンギャルさん

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  • 波の力を使って電気を起こす

    [From May Issue 2014]

    Kyoritsu Electric Corporation
    The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 has affected our lives in numerous ways. In particular, power shortages caused by damage to the nuclear power station inconvenienced a huge number of people. By complying with power saving measures that continue to this day, many people have discovered the importance of electricity. As a result, the debate about how to generate a safe and stable supply of electricity has heated up.
    In addition to standard hydraulic, thermal and nuclear power, recently more and more energy has been generated using methods that harness natural power like wind and sun power. In recent years, “wave power generation” has been a big topic of discussion. As Japan is surrounded by ocean, it’s the most suitable method of generating power. With this in mind, Kyoritsu Electric Corporation of Shizuoka Prefecture is conducting research and development in cooperation with Tokai University and other private companies.
    Wave power generation technology is diverse and includes the overtopping device, the oscillating water column and floating devices. Kyoritsu Electric is working with overtopping devices. Executive Director NISHI Nobuyuki explains enthusiastically, “An oscillating water column turbine can’t generate any power under bad weather conditions. The downside of floating devices is that they don’t generate much power. The overtopping wave device is still in development, but I think we’ll be able to maintain a certain level of power regardless of weather conditions.”
    Nishi and his team are developing the overtopping wave device; for this, piles drilled into the offshore seabed are fitted with equipment such as ramps, reservoirs, water discharge pipes and power generators. The method involves storing water that has surged over the ramp, when it descends it turns a propeller to generate power. “It’s particularly unique, in that compared to other methods of wave power, its effect on the environment is limited and it operates reliably,” says Nishi outlining the merits of the overtopping wave device.
    Nishi says, “Our research indicates that one meter of coastline can generate enough electric power for ten households. Compared to sun and wind power, the cost per kilowatt is low.”
    The lower cost isn’t the only advantage of overtopping wave power generation. Currents created by the revolution of the turbine propeller, dissolve oxygen into the seawater. Oxygen rich seawater promotes the growth of marine life. In other words, it’s known to have a positive effect on the fish farming and fishing industry.
    It takes a tremendous amount of money, equipment and raw materials to generate electricity. However, since Japan is an island country surrounded by ocean, wave power is constantly available for almost all coastal regions. As Japan is a country that is poor in natural resources, wave power that harnesses the abundant raw energy of the ocean is seen as a way for Japan not to lose out to foreign competition.
    Kyoritsu Electric Corporation
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年5月号掲載記事]


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  • 長距離移動が快適な高級夜行バス

    [From April Issue 2014]

    High-class overnight buses that resemble hotel lounges have begun trending. Characterized by spacious seats, the bus’ interior creates a calm atmosphere. Slightly more expensive than normal, but replete with a high-class atmosphere, these kinds of buses are on the rise and have been gaining popularity.
    Compared to using airplanes, shinkansen, or other rail travel, bus travel takes longer. In addition, some say that traffic jams add to the journey time and that it is tiring sitting in the same position for long periods. However, bus fares are cheaper and more economical than other means of transportation. To get more people to opt for taking the bus, bus companies have begun to move towards creating a more comfortable travelling space.
    Connecting Tokyo and Tokushima, “My Flora” of Kaifu-kanko Co., Ltd., Tokushima Prefecture, is popular. There are only 12 seats on a motor coach that usually sits 45. Each seat is self-contained, like a private room in a travelling hotel. A spacious restroom, where one can change clothes, is installed in the rear.
    It is common to use an airplane to get from Tokyo to Shikoku, but the fare costs 29,670 yen one way. However, My Flora costs 13,000 yen one way, less than half the price of the plane fare. Public relations officer, YAMAMOTO Hirofumi says, “Because the bus goes direct to its destination, it saves you the hassle of traveling to an airport. Also car rental arrangements are possible from the bus stop, making it convenient for sightseeing. We want to establish more bus stops in future.”



    Featuring high-performance seats – available depending on the vehicle – WILLER EXPRESS is an express bus laid on by a company called WILLER EXPRESS JAPAN Co., Ltd. (Osaka City, Osaka). The “Executive” in the first floor part of the double decker is especially luxurious and popular. The soft, fluffy seats are 80 centimeters wide and can be extended flat like a bed, making it possible to stretch your feet out as far as you like.
    Additionally, with seats arranged diagonally, “the Cocoon” has an atmosphere similar to a capsule hotel. Either seat is installed with monitors, so a movie, TV, or games can be enjoyed. On top of that, to secure privacy and safety, the seats can be blocked off with a partition. This is available mainly for the routes that link the Kansai area and Tokyo. If the bus departs Osaka at around 10 pm, it will arrive in Tokyo at around 7:30 in the morning the next day.
    Public relations officer, IKE Aiko, says, “You can discover a new lifestyle if you utilize the overnight bus effectively. Rather than waking up early to depart, if you have a good sleep on the bus the night before, the day begins comfortably.” Bus fares are from 8,000 yen to 12,000 yen, and, depending on the season, there are also discount sales campaigns.
    New high speed omnibus regulations were enforced last August. One of its provisions to “secure bus stops” is difficult, and in some cases, passengers must board the bus from a location distant from a train station. The issue now for bus companies is securing more convenient bus stops. WILLER EXPRESS bus stops have cafés adjacent to them; forgetting the inconvenience they are popular with users.

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko[2014年4月号掲載記事]


    WILLER EXPRESS JAPAN株式会社(大阪府大阪市)が展開する高速バス、WILLER EXPRESSは、車両によって選べる高性能なシートが自慢です。なかでも2階建て車両によって選べる高性能なシートが自慢です。なかでも2階建て車両の1階部分にある「エグゼクティブ」は、ぜいたくな気分が味わえると人気です。ふかふかのシートは横幅が80センチと広く、ベッドのようにリクライニング可能なので、足を思う存分伸ばすことができます。
    昨年8月に新高速乗合バス制度が施行されました。規定のひとつ「停留所の確保」は困難で、駅から離れた場所から乗車しなければならない場合もあります。バス会社は、より便利な停留所を確保するのが今後の課題です。WILLER EXPRESSの停留所にはカフェが併設されており、その不便さを忘れさせるほど利用客に好評です。


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  • プロペラの技を生かした人工関節

    [From April Issue 2014]

    Nakashima Medical Co., Ltd.
    Our body has numerous joints: elbows, knees, shoulders, hips… If these parts become unusable because of disease or accident, it becomes difficult to easily bend and stretch the body. With this in mind, efforts are underway to recover damaged motor functions through using artificial joints made of metal or plastic.
    The world’s first artificial joint was made in 1951. About 90 percent of the artificial joints currently used for medical treatment in Japan are produced abroad. But Japanese people have smaller bodies than Westerners, and they regularly sit seiza style (kneeling with legs folded beneath the body). As a result, foreign-made artificial joints are not necessarily user-friendly for Japanese. This has led to the development of such products in Japan.
    One domestic manufacturer of artificial joints is Nakashima Medical Co., Ltd. (President NAKASHIMA Yoshio) in Okayama Prefecture. This young company was founded in 2008, but was formerly the medical operations department of a firm named Nakashima Propeller, a company that had been carrying out research for new products since 1987. Nakashima Propeller is a global corporation that manufactures propellers for motorboats, supertankers and various types of ships.
    Propellers and artificial joints are manufactured using similar methods. Both processes begin with “casting” (pouring molten metal into casts and leaving it to solidify), then continue with “machine processing” (filing down the material) and finish off with “polishing” (rubbing it until it shines like a mirror). Developed through the production of propellers, Nakashima Medical’s products are characterized by intricate three-dimensional manipulation techniques and skilled engineers’ attention to detail.
    Depending on the part of the body they are manufactured for, artificial joints consist of two to four components. As joints vary from patient to patient, the optimum combination of components can be chosen in a wide range of sizes. Production processes, from machine processing to polishing, in addition to final checks of the finished products, are all done in-house. Since these products are put inside the human body, their exteriors and measurements are rigorously inspected before being thoroughly washed and sterilized.
    Nakajima says: “We are focusing on developing artificial joints suited to the bone structure of Japanese people and to their lifestyles. That’s why we always strive to make products that even our employees and their families would feel safe using.” In cooperation with hospitals throughout Asia, the company has collected about 750 data relating to bone size. They are now striving to manufacture joints with an optimum size to suit each race.
    It is said that there are 400 million elderly people aged 65 or older in the world who are in need of medical devices. This number is expected to rise to 700 million by 2023. In turn, the number of people requiring artificial joints will increase. “Artificial joints will enable people in wheelchairs to walk, and this is something that really motivates us,” says Nakashima, emphasizing the importance of his company’s products.
    Nakashima Medical Co., Ltd.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年4月号掲載記事]


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  • リアルな日本食を動画で紹介

    [From April Issue 2014]

    Yummy Japan
    Japanese cuisine is known throughout the world for being tasty and rich in variety. It’s one of the main sightseeing attractions in Japan now. A series on the diversity of Japanese cuisine has been presented to the world via YouTube. “Yummy Japan” produces these videos and is, so to speak, a broadcaster dedicated to Japanese cuisine.
    KUSABE Shiori, production manager says, “During the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, we’d like foreign tourists to discover where’s good to eat. Hospitality was our motivation for getting the ball rolling. Japanese traditional cuisine has been registered as one of intangible cultural heritages of the world, but we also have simple home-cooked food. In our series, we present real food that Japanese are eating.”
    You can watch all kinds of videos here. There are videos about how to prepare packed lunches that resemble animals or animation characters, restaurant reviews by an American who is crazy about ramen, as well as series about restaurants that have extra-large helpings, extremely spicy dishes or barbecue meat on their menus.
    The izakaya series, “Deep in Japan,” is of particular interest to foreigners. From ninja restaurants to a cosplay cafe in Akihabara, it recommends unusual restaurants and drinking establishments that are not well known to the foreign community. You can also enjoy the lively conversation of two French lady reporters.
    Director KANDA Hiroaki says, “Other countries have videos introducing recipes, but we haven’t see any introducing restaurants. We got started with the idea in mind of Japan-specific videos.” They upload a new video onto YouTube every week. Soon the day will come when the world will know about Japan’s “real culinary culture.”
    Yummy Japan[2014年4月号掲載記事]

    Yummy Japan
    日本食はバラエティーに富み、おいしい料理として世界に知られています。今や、日本観光の大きな魅力の一つです。その多様な日本食をYouTubeで世界に向け発信しているシリーズがあります。これらの動画を制作している「Yummy Japan」は、いわば日本食の放送局です。
    中でも居酒屋シリーズ「Deep in Japan」は外国人の興味を引いています。ここでは、忍者レストランなど風変わりなレストランや秋葉原のコスプレカフェから、外国人にもすすめたいあまり知られていない飲み屋まで紹介しています。二人のフランス人女性レポーターのゆかいな会話も楽しめます。
    Yummy Japan

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  • 水を使わずに調理ができる鍋

    [From March Issue 2014]

    Aichi Dobby. Ltd.
    “Vermicular,” an enamel pot developed to cook without using a single drop of water, has become a hot topic. If ingredients such as meat, potatoes, onions, carrots, and a roux are placed into the pot and cooked over a low heat, a delicious curry is produced in approximately one hour. Though it’s been three years and six months since it was launched on the market, it is still a popular item; it takes eight months to arrive after an order is placed.
    Vermicular is manufactured by a small factory in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture called Aichi Dobby. Ltd. (Executive President, HIJIKATA Kunihiro). The company has the knowhow to cast and precision process iron. Originally the company made machine parts, but it was decided that “by combining these two processes, it will be possible to produce pots that haven’t existed in the world till now.” With this in mind, development work got underway.
    The pot can cook without water because there is no gap between the body of the pot and its lid. “When you close the lid on pots produced by other companies, they rattle up and down, but since the point of contact between the Vermicular’s pot and lid is processed precisely, it does not move at all. When you seal it, you do not need water because the moisture emitted from the ingredients turns into steam that stays inside,” explains HIJIKATA Tomoharu, vice president and head of development.
    “We had to manufacture it precisely in order to make it as airtight as possible. However, the casting used to make pots is very thin, so it warps no matter what. In addition, cast iron will warp at high temperatures of 800° heat when the body is painted with enamel. In this way, it was a huge effort balancing techniques of applying enamel with techniques to improve the seal,” he says, looking back to the developmental stage.
    “The pot was designed to effectively transmit heat to ingredients from the heat source, with the idea in mind of producing ‘a pot designed to bring out the essential taste of ingredients.’ For example the ridged surface on the bottom of the pot does not stress the ingredients and distributes heat evenly. That is why this pot can bring out a sweetness in ingredients that other companies’ pots cannot,” Hijikata says, describing the Vermicular’s features.
    Emails and telephone calls from surprised customers arrive almost every day saying, “In any case, vegetables are tastier,” “It is the first time I was able to cook so well,” “I did not know that the taste of ingredients could be so rich,” “Up until now I’ve hated carrots but now I can eat them,” and “Now artificial flavoring leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
    Approximately 80,000 pots have been shipped and the Vermicular has become the company’s main product, accounting for 80% of sales. Hijikata says that the appeal of the product lies in the fact that it “reflects the craftsmanship that is only possible with Made in Japan products.” Talking about his dreams for the future, he says that from now on, “so that customers from around the world can enjoy it, I want to develop a product that adapts itself to the eating habits and the lifestyles of various countries.”
    Aichi Dobby. Ltd.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年3月号掲載記事]


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  • 絵を描くように刺しゅうできるミシン

    [From February Issue 2014]

    Jaguar International Corporation
    Inkjet printers are useful for printing text created on a PC and pictures taken by digital cameras. By using thread in place of ink, and fabric instead of paper, perhaps it’s possible to create something with more warmth. With this thought in mind, Jaguar International Corporation developed a product called the “Embroidery Printer.”
    This product synthesizes an embroidery machine with software and comes with 120 pre-installed designs. If you connect the machine to a PC on which its software is installed, you can easily create original one-of-a-kind pieces of embroidery. It’s possible to embroider not only pre-installed patterns, but also pictures drawn on painting software, photos, and letters in the fonts you have installed on your PC.
    “Other companies’ embroidery machines tended to be expensive because they had a liquid crystal panel and a built-in computer to control the movement of fabric. Our machine, however, is connected to a PC. That’s why we could set the price low, which has helped increase the number of fans enjoying embroidery,” says MURASAKI Shunsuke of the Planning Division.
    “It’s necessary to have a PC in order to operate this embroidery machine. So we were careful to make the software easy to operate, even for those who aren’t adept with a PC. In addition, for the elderly, and others who are not used to using a mouse and keyboard, we made the software compatible with tablets,” says Murasaki emphasizing that ease of use was a top priority with this product.
    Comments have come flooding in from those who have used this machine, such as: “Because it came with embroidery software, I could try my hand at creating original patterns.” People also appreciate not only the fact that the software comes with a wide variety of fonts and patterns, but also that the software takes you through each step of the process so it’s easy to use even for those who don’t know much about PCs.
    Since being released on the market in 2007, the company has sold a total of hundreds of thousands of embroidery machines in over 25 countries. “Embroidery club” communities have spontaneously sprung up overseas. “It seems that a new kind of network is popular; through the Internet, users who are separated by distance can exchange their creative efforts,” says Murasaki.
    “It’s possible to express yourself through embroidery and users find pleasure through sharing their work. I’d like to encourage people to share that sense of joy and fun,” says Murasaki. These embroidery machines will be used in more and more settings, not only as “a machine that easily creates pictures with thread and fabric” but also as “a communication tool.”
    Jaguar International Corporation
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年2月号掲載記事]


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  • 大人にも広がるカプセルトイ

    [From January Issue 2014]

    A capsule toy is a small capsule with a toy or figurine inside. Insert the money into a vending machine containing the capsules, turn the handle and a product tumbles out. As it doesn’t cost much, some people try again and again until the product they want comes out.
    In the past there was a strong perception that capsule toys were something for kids and machines were installed in toy stores and shopping centers. Now new products targeted at adults are being launched one after the other. Priced between 100 to 400 yen, they can be found in all kinds of places, including CD shops.
    Because they’re so realistic, many adults are fans of Kitan Club Co., Ltd’s “NATURE TECHNI COLOUR” series of figurines of living creatures. Since going on the market in 2012, the “CUP ON THE FUCHICO” series has sold a total of more than 4.4 million units. These are figurines that can be hung from the rim of a glass. As many people upload photos onto SNS when using a Fuchico, photo contests were held and 6,000 entries were submitted. Related products and picture books are also on sale.
    Another hit product that’s flying off the shelves even faster than CUP ON THE FUCHICO is “Koko wa ore ga kuitomeru! Omae wa sakini iku nya-!” (I’m holding it up! Stand well back meow!) suction cup stand. “I think there are many reasons why adults are so enchanted by this, including the fact that it reminds them of their childhood, it’s cheap and delivers the excitement of the unexpected,” says SHIKI Seita, PR man for Kitan Club.
    “However, I feel that the biggest factor is that word gets out through SNS,” says Shiki. “You burst out laughing as soon as you see a photo uploaded by a friend and want one for yourself. Since you don’t know what’s going to come tumbling out, it’s exciting when you get hold of your product and end up uploading your own photos on SNS. It could be that this cycle creates a huge buzz.”


    Kabuki Handkerchief

    It doesn’t end there, some elderly people are also getting their hands on capsules. “Kabuki Handkerchief” by Bandai Co., Ltd. is so popular that kabuki fans wait in line for them. “We usually have only a few repeat production runs for capsule toys, but this item will continue to be on sale for some time,” says WASHIZU Tomomi from the PR team at the president’s office.


    Shimanekko metal badges

    In some cases capsule toys have helped to raise funds for charity. A capsule containing a metal badge with “Shimanekko” – the tourism mascot for Shimane Prefecture – and a red feather printed on it costs 100 yen each and all the proceeds are donated to Community Chest. “Red Feather Community Chest” is one of Japan’s well-known charities and it’s used to help the elderly and the disabled in the area, as well as disaster victims. Originally intended to be on sale for a limited period of time only, the badges were more popular than expected and now they are always on sale.
    Besides this, capsule vending machines selling sets containing a fortune and lucky charm are placed in hospitals. It’s been said that vending machines selling capsule toys outnumber postboxes, and they may further increase in number in the future.





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