Wondering What This Is? Yeah, Me Too.

So, I’m scrolling through my Google Reader today and noticed several posts about Japanese inventions. One creeped me out a bit. One made me giggle. One made me groan. And one left me feeling a little confused. Can guess which is which?

Invention #1: Anatomically Correct Pregnancy Doll

So, I'm scrolling through my Google Reader today and noticed several posts about Japanese inventions. One creeped me out a bit. One made me giggle. One made me groan. And one left me feeling a little confused. Can guess which is which?

Invention #1: Anatomically Correct Pregnancy Doll

According to a post on Pink Tentacle, a popular sideshow attraction at a misemono (carnival) in 18th and 19th century Japan was the anatomically correct pregnancy doll—stretch marks and all!. When I saw this photo, I immediately thought of the episode of Grey's Anatomy where Meredith finds the Anatomy Jane Doll and uses it to solve whatever medical conundrum there was that week. Similar to Anatomy Jane, this doll's primary purpose was to teach midwives-in-training how to deliver babies. Not too shabby for a few hundred years ago, eh?

Invention #2: Heart Shaped Watermelon

I have no idea how reshaping fruit happens, but I do know that no matter how fabulous I think it is, I will not pay $160 for a watermelon—even if it is in the shape of a heart. Farmer Hiroichi Kimura and his wife worked for three years to perfect their process of producing this popular summertime fruit. Twenty are currently available for purchase. This isn't the first time folks have molded a watermelon to facilitate kitschy cuteness. Want an Egyptian themed watermelon? You got it! Want to build a house with square ones? They are just $83 dollars apiece.

Invention #3: Marriage Hunting Bra

Yesterday in Tokyo the Konkatsu Bra was unveiled by Triumph International. The name literally means "marriage hunting" and features a clock that counts down toward the wearer's pre-determined marriage deadline. The characters on the front pocket—where you keep the contact info of potential suitors, I suppose—reads "now hunting for a husband." The side pockets hold a pen and an official wedding stamp, which is needed when applying for a marriage license. Go ahead... Guess what happens when an engagement ring is placed between the bosoms in that pink, heart shaped holder: the uber-mechanical bra starts playing "The Wedding March!" Ick! And here I thought it was a good thing that Japanese women and men are delaying marriage in lieu of establishing careers first.

Invention #4: Angel Lap Pillow

Tired of cleaning up their husbands' pee, Japanese women are now asking them to kneel when taking a leak. The Angel Lap Pillow sits in front of the toilet for men to use in order to prevent excessive splashing. Okay, so this begs the question: instead of buying that silly contraption, why don't men just sit down? Well, according to a very serious article in The Japan Times, about half of them do. It also explains that the level of splashing when aiming front-forward is still much higher then if aiming at the back of the bowl. I really do love that this article takes urine splashing to a scientific level. The author even quotes Camille Paglia! The moral of the story seems to be that behavioral changes—peeing while sitting down or kneeling instead of taking a turn at toilet cleaning—among Japanese men who want to maintain their pee-based masculinity are funny and arbitrary. Peeing 'like a woman' is okay, but cleaning 'like a woman' is not. Gotcha!

by Mandy Van Deven
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4 Comments Have Been Posted

Nothing significant to add,

Nothing significant to add, but here's an article from a while back about shaped vegetables and melons. Disney even grows some of their vegetables to look like Mickey heads. Just thought you might find it an interesting read.



I am so tired of these "wacky Japan" type stories. Maybe I'm alone out here, but they often seem to me tired, clichéd and lacking real analysis. What's the point really - point out how odd/backward/funny/obnoxious the latest invention is? I don't get it.

They explain how fruits are

They explain how fruits are made into fun shapes at Epcot Center (Orlando Florida), when I went last time (a few months ago) they had different fruits and veggies in different states of mickey-head.

I too am rather tired, yet still intrigued, by Japanese invention stories.

Analysis Redux

This point of this post is not to simply list "wacky Japanese" inventions, but to identify ways these inventions reflect struggles against and acceptance of social norms in Japan instead of just being "wacky", which I agree is yawn-worthy. I incorrectly assumed I didn't need to spell everything out. Since it seems I do, here's a little more for readers to chew on when considering why these inventions actually make a lot of sense:

Japan's government currently has a campaign to promote <a href="http://www.asiaone.com/Travel/News/Story/A1Story20090312-128092.html"><i... (cute) culture</a> to gain soft power in the world. Heart-shaped watermelons are totally cute, right?

Using anatomically correct dolls 300 years ago is still reflected in Japan's <a href="http://www.nurse.or.jp/jna/english/midwifery/pdf/mij2008.pdf">healthcare system today</a>, which some believe to be healthier and more holistic that the healthcare system in the US.

Isn't it interesting how the conflicts that emerge from gender role expectations (like marriage vs career or cleaning the toilet vs. kneeling to pee) and the ways people attempt to solve those challenges (in the form of a bra or kneeling cushion) don't really solve these challenges, but actually contribute to the pressure of gender role conformity?

How ya like me now? ;)

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