Japan is a nation known for its technological innovation and boundless creativity when it comes to churning out new gizmos and gadgets. This can be a good thing (for the most part), but there are many Japan-only creations that have the rest of the world scratching their heads in confusion. Innovations that are from Japan tend to be quite hit or miss, and even when they miss the mark, their products aren’t something you’re likely to forget in a hurry!
Whatever we make of their weird and relentlessly wacky inventions over here, you have to admire their tireless effort to bring something new to market – whether it’s actually useful or not! Speaking of which, the following list of travel accessories like to play fast and loose with the term ‘useful’. We suppose some of them serve a slim purpose (but in all honesty, this is putting it kindly).
When we think of travel gadgets and innovations, the very least we expect from them is that they work to make our lives easier when we’re on the move. The following products try hard to live up to this basic brief, but – like so many of these innovations – they let themselves down at the last hurdle by being utterly bizarre for bizarre’s sake. Ever wished you could snooze in a shrimp-shaped pillow on your next flight? How about wanting to carry a cushion that hides your wind on public transport? Hmm, us neither. Take a peek through the surreal catalog of travel gadgets and accessories you can only find in Japan.
19 Wearable Sleeping Bag
Camping and sleeping under the stars is fun, but repeatedly rolling and unpacking your sleeping bag surely gets tedious after a while. Fortunately, innovators over at the Japan Trend Shop have an obvious – if faintly ridiculous – solution. To wear your sleeping bag instead.
We get the use of a wearable blanket in the winter months, but at least this is in the privacy of your own home, and a wearable blanket could almost pass for a chunky pullover, but trying to pass off a sleeping bag as a coat or suit? No matter how annoying carrying and unpacking a sleeping bag is, we’re not looking to buy this thing in a hurry!
18 Umbrella Tie
From a distance (and with your suit jacket always buttoned up) no-one would be able to notice that your blue polka dot tie has been replaced with a blue polka dot umbrella. Except, in reality, your co-workers and passengers in business class definitely are going to notice when you have an actual umbrella hanging from your neck.
It might be a slight inconvenience to carry around an umbrella on the off chance that it might rain, but there surely has to be a better (and safer) alternative to carrying one around your neck at all times. And what if it accidentally opened while around your neck and hit you in the face? Count us out!
17 The Mini Shoe Umbrellas
From umbrella ties to umbrella shoes, inventors from Japan certainly want to look out for us in wet weather, but whoever okayed this next accessory must have been pretty desperate to make a sale (we’re not sure how this even made it past the boardroom discussions). Say hello to the mini umbrellas designed to keep your feet dry. Just like a normal umbrella can if it’s wide enough...
These teeny umbrellas for your feet are designed to attach to the toe cap of your shoe (although we’re not so convinced how this would work for every shoe design out there). More to the point, how could this possibly keep your feet dry on your travels? The creators clearly didn’t allow puddle splash-back. But hey, at least they look great.
16 Mosquito Suit
Mosquitos buzzing everywhere can turn an otherwise heavenly holiday destination into a constant game of fly-swatting. The annoying pests force us to fit screen doors in warmer parts of the world and hang mesh covers over our bed to keep them at bay, but certain innovators may have overestimated our willingness to keep these annoying little bugs away.
Japan’s tech brand Bibi Lab has come up with this wearable mosquito suit intended to be worn at all times during mosquito season. This full body polyester mesh suit comes in neon colors and makes the wearer look like they’re headed to a rave party in the 90’s. Effective protection? Perhaps. Necessary? We sincerely hope not.
15 The Suitcase Desk
The Japanese tech brand Bibi Lab has created a piece of luggage that doubles up as a desk (and even comes with a fold-out chair too!). We hate to be a ball buster, but as inventive as it seems to have a flip-out table wherever you are on your travels, we can’t help thinking that it could have some complications for travelers.
For one thing, the structure of the foldaway desk and chair means the actual luggage interior may not be the roomiest. Also, when you consider that the extra weight of the concealed table and chair set might tip the scales, you may end up paying an added baggage fee for something you may never get around to using.
14 The ‘Shrimp’ Neck Pillow
Travel pillows have emerged in all kinds of bizarre shapes and designs in recent years (remember the weird Ostrich head pillow?). This time, another animal-themed neck pillow is on sale for travelers in the form of a coiled shrimp. Because who doesn’t want to look like they’re being strangled by a freaky prehistoric-sized shrimp on the flight home?
Put this monstrosity around your neck on public transport and kind people will tell you calmly to “hold still” while attempting to wrestle it off you. Others will likely just stare in disbelief. Until they see the ‘Made in Japan’ label at which point the horror subsides a little.
13 Flatulence Suppressing Cushion
We’ve all been in that situation on public transport when we’ve had a case of bad gas, hoping that no-one nearby notices, but when it happens, it happens and you can’t exactly hold it in forever. Thankfully, weird Japanese innovation to the rescue again! Travelers can break wind without fear with this!
This cushion designed by Body & Beauty is built to absorb the sounds (and smells) of a you-know-what, should you need to let it rip on public transport. While this is all well and good – particularly in the confines of a cramped plane cabin – it’s not the most compact of travel gadgets. Surely life’s too short to resort to carrying one of these in your hold-all?
12 Igloo Dome Pillow
If you thought the weird Ostrich head pillow seemed like an indiscreet way to sleep in private, think again. Meet the Igloo Dome pillow. This is essentially a tent, but only for your head. (To look at it, this would probably be better suited to a small dog or cat’s bed, but we’re prepared to be open-minded).
A comfy place to rest your head? Check. A compact, portable way to offer privacy and silence when you need to catch up on some rest? Not so much. Most travel pillows are designed to help you sleep comfortably and somewhat privately on planes and airports, but try squeezing this onto the aircraft with you! This is only really suited for camping trips and even then, you may as well sleep in a full-sized tent instead.
11 Chin Rest Arm
Have you ever been waiting in an airport terminal, head in hands with exhaustion and boredom, only to wish for a plastic robot arm to be holding your chin up in place of your own? Nope, we didn't think so. Unfortunately, tech innovators from Japan do, and this is what scares us…
If you’re not a fan of the cozy, fleecy feel of travel pillows, maybe you’d like to attach a cartoonish looking arm to the armrest of your plane seat and sleep soundly on your journey. At $63 from the Japan Trend Shop, it’s a little pricier than your average neck pillow, but at least you get some entertainment value out of it (even if your fellow passengers won’t!).
10 Hello Kitty Toilet Sound Blocker
Ever needed to go to the bathroom in public, or while sharing a super quiet train carriage and the toilet happens to be within earshot of quite a lot of people? Doing your business can get a little embarrassing when you feel like you’re on display, so to speak, which is why you need this (or not) in your life – the Hello Kitty Toilet Sound blocker.
To the untrained eye, this simply looks like another cute hello kitty keyring but press a button and it plays a recording of running water to disguise your bathroom habits for 27 seconds! It’s great that it saves wasting water, but we have to ask: Why Hello Kitty? And why 27 seconds specifically? Scratch that, we don’t want to know...
9 Banana Carry Case
For all of Japan’s ingenuity and innovation (at times), they failed to spot one tiny flaw when arriving at this particular design – mainly the fact that bananas come in their own natural carry case. We get that bananas may squish and bruise easily in transit, but that’s what lunch boxes are for (and it’s not a guarantee that this would fit in most lunch boxes).
Cute and quirky though it may look, what happens when it doesn’t fit the banana? Because unless you’ve got a genetically-modified bunch growing somewhere, these don’t all grow the exact same size and length. Your move, Japan.
8 Novelty Seafood USB Sticks
We get that novelty items are intended to be a little wacky and sillier than normal products, but when a novelty USB drive comes to mind, we might think of a cute little animal or cartoon character, not...seafood, and certainly not realistic looking seafood.
While they might serve the basic function of a regular USB flash drive, these bizarrely designed USB memory sticks look a lot like someone has literally wedged their existing USB stick into a piece of limp sushi, defeating the purpose of a compact flash drive, since these are way too clunky to use on a flat surface. Pass!
7 The ‘Friend Zone’ Tent
As if members of the Friend Zone didn’t feel humiliated enough already, an outdoor retailer in Japan has actually gone and named a tent after their predicament. The Doppelganger H tent or ‘Friend Zone’ tent as the Japan Trend Shop describes it is designed so that friends (and perhaps couples going through a rough patch) can share a tent without getting too intimate.
It’s designed so that two people can have their own separate sleeping compartment and a connecting ‘bridge’ to share mealtimes together or swap ghost stories in the night. Why they couldn’t simply sell this as a friendship tent and avoid persecuting friend-zoners is beyond us!
6 Shinkansen Bullet Train Chopsticks
Okay, so this might be more of a cutlery item than a strict travel accessory, but for those times when you like to use your own chopsticks in a restaurant or tucking into noodles on the go, these trendsetters at least want to make sure you looked awesome while using them.
If you want to be the envy of all other chopstick users on your travels, then you may be tempted by these marvelous chopsticks in the shape of a bullet train. These sticks are modeled on Japan’s own high-speed network Shinkansen (just don’t eat with them at the same speed, or you’re almost bound to get a stomach ache).
5 Armpit Cooler Fan
When you’re out and about in a hot climate, sweat patches can occur. We’re only human, it’s natural, and most of us reach for a fan or remove a layer of clothing if it gets too hot under the collar. We don’t, however, think to clip a mini fan on to the sleeve of our shirt.
Enter the Thanko Electric Clip-on Cooler Fan for your armpit. This attaches to the end of your shirt sleeve to send a cool breeze rushing to your underarm and preventing unsightly sweat patches. This might be a nice idea if it weren’t for the fact that it’s not very discreet. (Also, prepare for stares on public transport when your arm appears to make a loud whirring noise).
4 Portable Face Moisturiser And Battery
Power banks are a great thing. Travel sized moisturizers are a great thing. “Boring! Why not merge them together into one product?” Japan thought. And here’s the fruit of that very bizarre labor. Not only is it double the size of most power banks or portable batteries, it also looks uncannily like a lighter – good luck taking this through airport security.
Made by the electronics brand Thanko, this is exactly what it says on the tin – a portable battery that also happens to be a ‘face mist’ moisturizer (because lord knows, running low on battery can dry out your skin with stress!).
3 Air-conditioned Jacket
If an armpit cooling fan doesn’t quite go far enough in your bid to stay cool on your travels, perhaps you want to go the whole hog by getting an entire jacket that cools down your body? The clothing brand Kuchofuku has designed what they describe as an ‘air-conditioned jacket’ which is exactly how it sounds – a jacket with air conditioning fans built in.
The in-built fans can be charged with AA battery or with a USB charger for your convenience, although we’re pretty sure the convenience ends there. Sure, it might keep you cool in sweltering temperatures, but once the fans are activated, you may begin to resemble the Stay Puft monster. Not a cool beach look.
2 Desk ‘Book’ Pillow
Japan appears to have the market sewn up when it comes to outlandish travel pillows, and this ‘Book Pillow’ is no exception (doesn’t part of you wish you had this during a boring school lecture?). Thanks to this genius design, you can grab 40 winks and seem intellectual with it too.
As it says on the tin, this pillow looks like a regular book (sort of) when closed, and opens up to a soft and plump place to rest your head, wherever you are – travelling, the work commute, or maybe just to fool your parents or teacher into thinking you studied all night so you definitely deserve that promotion/allowance. How would they ever find out when it looks this convincing?
1 The Commuter’s Chin Rest
Along with New York and China, Japan’s subway trains are among the most crowded on the planet and any commuter knows the struggle of finding a seat to rest their eyes for a bit. Unfortunately, snoozing on the subway can sometimes mean accidentally napping on your neighbor's shoulder. So how can one sleep comfortably with so little space? With the Subway Sleeper Chin Rest, obviously!
This bizarre vintage travel gadget from Japan – if you can really call it a gadget – is essentially a chin rest attached to a pole to allow the weary traveler the chance to catch 40 winks on their journey. It doesn’t look all that restful to us though, especially since it looks more like some kind of hospital apparatus.