Genius Concepts Found in Japan

Let’s be honest, the Japanese are geniuses with wacky innovations. I would be remiss if I didn’t share any of the crazy innovations Marc and I saw on our recent journey to Japan.

Let’s start with their innovations with the QR bar code. Designed to be  read quickly, these codes are now used everywhere from billboards to advertisements. You take a photo of one with your cell phone’s camera and then present that image at the store to be scanned as a coupon or as a ticket. Here’s a billboard in Tokyo that, when you take a photo, loads a special website on your phone.

Here’s an ad for a coupon at the very popular MOS burger.

In fact, Mos has their process so automated, the chef of your meal doesn’t have to handle any money.  First, you select what you want at the vending machine, and then take your ticket to the food counter.

Sometimes discretion is necessary, especially at a Love Hotel. Here you don’t even have to interact with one single person. You see the rooms that are available, push the button for the one you want, take a ticket, and pay via a slot or a tube when you leave.


Then again sometimes you need a person to come over and help you, right away. Which is why I love the buzzer at the table for summoning your waitress on demand.

The Japanese are very obsessed with their bathroom experience, from heated seats, to gray water capture, to remote-controlled personal cleaning. Check out the TOTO washlet website which indulges all the ways one can love their toilet. I think the Japanese channel 70% of their innovations into this one room of the house alone.

When you wave your hand in front of this, it plays a recording of a toilet flushing. This could come in handy if you need some inspiration to get you started or to mask your own sounds.


This motion-activated hand dryer literally blasts water off your hands while a blue LED glows to kill any germs.

Ladies, I’m sure you hate when the last shirt at the store is marred with a lipstick smear. This handy disposable cotton sleeve goes over your head so you don’t leave any trace on the clothes.

Fun innovation with USBs could be a subject for another blog post. The Japanese seem to power everything through a USB. The little gadgets above are aromatherapy oil  diffusers.

The Japanese will also turn anything into a cell phone fob, including a small living cactus in a glass vial. A hole in the bottom allows you to soak it in water for watering.

If tiny cacti are cute, a bear head at the bottom of a coffee cup is even cuter.

A Cat Cafe where you pay by the hour to sit and have coffee among friendly cats is cuter still.

Live animals (pets) are hard to come by in the larger cities like Tokyo. Yet, stuffed, plastic, and printed animals can be found almost anywhere. Like construction barricades. Can you imagine one of our highway workers putting this up? They would quit.


If monkeys aren’t manly enough, what about LED cones? This has real safety features.

The Japanese are world leaders in recycling. Their secret? Lots of different classifications for sorting. I’ve seen anywhere from 10 to 17 different types of sorting bins, and they are diligent about properly sorting their trash into every one of them. What you are putting into the trash is everyone’s business, so expect someone to point out if you are not using the correct can.

I don’t know why this enamored me so, but I love the idea of laying down your floor in interlocking segments. They snap together easily, your corners are always square and if one tile gets damaged you can still save 99% of the rest of your floor.

This takes modular flooring to a whole new level, a jigsaw puzzle of carpet tiles!


Who knew that escalator handrails come in any color other than black? The Japanese use many colors – blue, red, yellow, etc. – to accent other areas in the space. However, advertising on the handrail takes it to a whole new level!

Zippers that zip your jacket and continue all the way around the hood, allow you to select how tight you need to be zipped up. Sometimes all the way may be necessary.