Weird/Useful Japanese Products: Worth it?

The Japanese have a tradition of inventing quirky products that the Internet likes to make fun of. Recently, Mashable had an article that argued that some of them are actually really useful. We took a look at the article and determined that while they all may be useful, only a handful actually provide value.

Read what Mashable says here. And see our counter argument below.

1. The Banana keeper might be good for keeping bananas safe in backpacks. But isn’t it more cost-effective to simply make sure not to let your bananas end up there?

2. A microphone that mutes you as you sing into it? Buy one for all your relatives.

3. Dictionary desk pillow? Eh. It’s cute, I guess.

4. Selfie sticks do come in handy for people who take selfies. I’ve seen people using them. If you like taking pictures of yourself, and don’t mind carrying that thing around, get one of these.

5. The thing that softens your butter by turning it into little strands…yeah. You can just leave your butter out so that it’s room temperature. Hard butter problem solved, and for free.

6. A pillow that makes it easier to hear sounds when lying down? Do people lose their hearing when prone? I don’t understand. I’m sure the thing works, but is it worth shelling out money for? Prolly not.

7. A machine that converts office paper to toilet paper? Well, that’s just good green technology. Plus its a good way to get rid of those annoying memos that piss you off so much.

8. The little guy that sits on the edge of your ramen cup and turns color when it’s ready…buy that if you eat ramen a lot. Not if it will get dusty in a drawer somewhere.

9. Self stirring pot. Ok, that is kinda neat. A good thing to get if you multi-task and tend to be too busy to stir when you’re cooking pasta.

10. Summer cooling spray that looks like shaving cream and keeps you cool in the heat? Doesn’t water do that?

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First Sign Hair Clip

self defense key chains
Key Cats are lower tech than the First Sign Hair Clip, but they offer several distinct advantages.

Forbes put together a list of “weird and unique” products. Of the 12 items on the list, only one is actually useful. (And a bunch of them are gross, so I will not mention them.) The First Sign Hair Clip looks like an ordinary hair clip with a daisy on it, but it has a built in microphone and motion sensor that activates when the wearer is physically attacked.

It’s a cool idea. When the sensors are triggered, the clip sends a message to law enforcement, and the embedded audio gathers evidence. Presumably, this will make police and prosecutors’ jobs easier, and help to secure justice for victims.


I doubt that the sensors are smart enough to differentiate between motion that happens during a physical attack, and motion that just happens. For instance, if you slip on a patch of ice, of if your friend lifts you up in a bear hug, or if you win the lottery and start jumping up and down, are the cops going to show up?

Wasting officers’ time would result in this thing getting yanked from the market, and fast.

There is a Better Option

It’s not nearly as high tech (which means its not as expensive) but it can do the same thing: gather evidence. It can also aid in self defense. I’m referring, of course, to the Key Cat. The Key Cat is a key chain shaped like a cat’s face, with two finger holes for “eyes” and pointy ears that gather DNA when plunged into an assailant’s carotid. It works like a brass knuckle, but is designed to buy you time so that you can run away and call for help.

The downside is that it doesn’t call for help for you like the hair clip does, and you can’t use it passively: you actually have to hit someone with it for it to work. But it only costs $9.95 and it won’t call the police when your dog jumps on you.

The choice is yours.

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Where to Buy Russian Candy

Photo credit: bfistermn / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: bfistermn / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

As a follow-up to my last post about where to buy Japanese Kit-Kats, I thought I’d write about another hard-to-find confection: Russian candy.

I know what you’re thinking: that Russia isn’t exactly known for it’s chocolate. While that’s true, Russian candy is every bit as good as Hershey’s, and has a slight edge: it comes in colorful wrappers bearing adorable characters like “The Squirrel” or the “Clumsy Bear.”

These chocolates, and many other Russian delicacies, are available on While there are other sites that sell these same candies, we chose because their wide selection includes beautiful gift sets for New Years and other holidays.

What’s more, the site offers everything from buckwheat groats to dried salt bream. If that won’t satisfy your Russophilia, what will?

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Where to Get Japanese Kit Kats

kit kats from japan
Green tea and sweet potato-flavored Kit Kat bars. Photo credit: goodiesfirst / Foter / CC BY

Kit Kat bars are, for some reason, very popular in Japan. So popular, in fact, that the Japanese make Kit Kats in an impressive array of flavors, ranging from “sweet potato” to “cherry blossoms in the snow”*. They’ve done a great job of adapting a foreign-made thing for Japanese tastes. And even if you’re not Japanese, aren’t you a little curious to try a kiwi, wasabi or Nagoya Red Bean Sandwich Kit Kat?

We sure are. But descending on the 7-11 stores of Tokyo in search of every flavor of Kit Kat is not on our radar right now. So what’s a gaijin to do if he/she wants to try an exotic Japanese Kit Kat?

What anyone who wants something exotic or Japanese must do: turn to the Internet. Here at CPAC-Fuller, we have already done the work for you. There are many online stores that offer Asian candy but their selection of Japanese Kit Kats is often limited. This variety pack offers 15 flavors of Japanese Kit Kat, including edamame, purple sweet potato and pear.

O shokuji o o tanoshimi kudasai! (Bon appetit!)

*We have no idea what that means.

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Magnetic Rails Save Room in the Fridge

Your fridge is crammed, and there’s no space to put that six-pack of Stella Artois Cidre. But you’re having a party in a few hours and that Stella Artois needs to chill. What are you gonna do?!

Well, you could clean out your fridge, for starters. You probably don’t need to hang on to that half-full jar of gooseberry jam that you’ve had for two years. And some of those takeout containers are probably right on the edge. Get rid of those and you don’t have to worry about where to put your cider.

But if your fridge isn’t full of stuff that shouldn’t be there and you need the space on the bottom shelf for your cheese-filled endive and crudites, cleaning out the fridge isn’t an option. You’re going to have to to plan B: magnetic rails.

That’s right. Stick magnetic rails to the underside of a shelf, and let the magnets attract the metal in your bottle caps. The Stella Artois will hang from the shelf, bat-like, held in place by the magnetic strip. The bottles will hover safely over your endive. The endive won’t have to budge an inch.

But not so fast. This product hasn’t quite made it into Skymall yet. The creators made a prototype and took to Kickstarter to fund the mass production. If you like the idea, find the creators on Kickstarter and toss them a few funds. It’s probably not a bad investment — can’t you see these in college dorms everywhere?

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Travel Wheelchairs from Troy Technologies

Custom-Fold-001-web (2)If you want to get down the jetway fast, you have to pack light. That’s hard to do, however, when you use a wheelchair — unless you choose a wheelchair that is built specifically for travel. At CPAC-Fuller, we adhere to four criteria when we judge whether a product is ideally suited for travel.

It’s great for travel if:

1. It’s lightweight. As mentioned above, traveling light is essential if you want to travel efficiently. There’s nothing that slows down travel more than lugging around over-sized and overstuffed suitcases, and the same can be said for wheelchairs. A conventional wheelchair that is heavy is only going to hold you back. Look for a wheelchair that is 25 lbs or less.

2. It folds. At CPAC-Fuller, we believe strongly in efficient travel. We don’t check bags. We hate overhead bins. If we can’t fold it or slide it under the seat in front of us, we don’t need it. A wheelchair that folds is as easy to travel with as a backpack — simply fold it up when you’re ready to get on a plane, train or shuttle bus.

3. It’s rugged. You never know what you’ll run into when you’re visiting a new place. It’s important that everything you bring when you travel can handle being tossed, jostled or ridden over rough terrain. If you’re going to visit the cobbled streets of London, your wheelchair had better hold up! Travel wheelchairs are designed to do just that.

4. It’s safe. Let’s face it. There are a lot of dangerous things you can run into when you’re traveling. Your wheelchair should not be one of them. Find a wheelchair that has been subjected to exhaustive safety tests.

We’ve done our research, we’ve found a company that makes wheelchairs that satisfy all four of these requirements: Troy Technologies. Before you buy your next travel wheelchair, be sure to check out Troy Technologies.


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Fans for Martial Arts Gyms

Photo credit: Several seconds / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Several seconds / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

If you work out at Bally’s or LA Fitness or some other corporate chain, then you probably don’t have to worry about climate control. However, if you train at an independently-owned specialty gym — such as a boxing or martial arts gym, then you know that climate control can sometimes pose significant challenges. For instance, in the summer, when you’re wearing sparring gear and sweating your way through a fight on a 90 degree day, you wish your un-air conditioned gym had something more than floor fans to keep you cool.

That’s why it’s pretty sweet that Big Ass Fans has designed fans specifically for specialty gyms. From their website:

In the warm summer months, Big Ass Fans offer a perceived cooling effect of up to 10°F (5.6°C), without the clutter, noise and trip hazard of floor fans. Working with your HVAC system, Big Ass Fans silently and gently distribute conditioned air throughout the space. In the winter, slow your fans to smoothly redirect warm air collecting at the ceiling back down to floor level, improving comfort and reducing your heating expenses. While your clients work up a sweat, we trim down your utility bills.

Big Ass Fans has “fitness specialists” who understand what gyms and their clientele need to stay cool. We love companies that turn to experts for help with their specialized products. Indoor sports facilities, such as batting cages, also benefit from the cooling power of their fans and the expertise of their team.

Big Ass Fans manufactures fans for other industries too; you’ll find their fans in all kinds of facilities, from horse barns to auto dealerships. They also make beautiful ceiling fans that you can install in your home. The Essence fan comes in several colors, including “Blinded by the White” and “Cocoa Ono.”



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Keyboard Decals

keyboard decals
Photo credit: rocket ship / Foter / CC BY-NC

Is it worth it trick out your keyboard? It sure does look cool. And the reviews on Etsy seem to offer a resounding yes. And while we’re big proponents of online reviews — customer reviews are the best way to determine whether a product is for you or not — a four-star rating doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy something.

Here’s the thing about keyboards: they get dirty. If you eat at your desk, they get even dirtier. My point: those rainbow decals will look great for a day or two, but after a few weeks your yellows will turn murky, the greens will be grubby and the blues will be covered in dusty old finger prints. Your Pokemon characters will grow a grey fuzz.

And what happens why you try to clean them? The Etsy listing says they have a protective coating but how does that stand up when you’re trying to scrub droplets of spilled wine off of the keys? This just seems like something that will be fun for a few days, but ultimately won’t be worthwhile.

One thing to consider when you read an online review is the fact that people usually post them as soon as they receive the product. People usually do not go back and review a product that they have owned for several months. Many of the reviews for this product on Esty were posted just after buyers put the decals on their keyboards. That’s why they all look great. How will they look in three weeks? I guess we’ll never know.

But hey. They are $13. If you really want to bedazzle your laptop, you might as well do it, right? Just take extra care to make sure that your keyboard stays clean.

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Wireless Earbuds

If you’ve been dreaming of wireless earbuds, your dreams may soon come true. Some savvy engineer/entrepreneur is currently generating money via Kickstarter to produce “Earin”, which are tiny, wireless earbuds that look like they might accidentally end up inside your vacuum cleaner. has the lowdown on this product, and since there’s no point in me rewriting it, I encourage you to go read up on Earin there.

The Latest in Headphones

Wireless earbuds are far from the only new kid on the block. 50 Cent’s sports headphones are sweat-proof and heavy on the bass, which provides runners with they kind of enveloping sound they need to take their minds off the hard work and pain of training. Where wireless earbuds might fall out during a run (and get lost in the grass, or stolen by a chipmunk, or run over by a child’s tricycle) 50 Cent’s headphones will pretty much stay put and because they are neon chartreuse in color they are very unlikely to go missing. These headphones are also wireless, so they offer the same benefit as Earin without the potential pitfalls.

Bose’s new TrueSound headphones are garnering some good reviews. Though I would never jog or workout with Bose headphones — they are way too expensive to sweat on — I would definitely prefer Bose’s mint green headphones over 50 Cent’s lime green (or fluorescent yellow, or whatever you want to call it) headphones.

Headphones: Worth Investing In

Headphones by bose
Headphones are a part of everyday life. Make sure yours are good ones.

You need a good pair of headphones. Bus rides and air travel without headphones are exercises in misery. Getting through the workday can be tough without headphones that block out unwanted sounds. Music can help ease the pain of a tough workout. It’s important to have headphones, and more important to have good ones. Good ones are expensive, yes, but add up the cost of replacing headphones over and over and you will end up with a figure that matches the cost of a really good pair. Our recommendation: save up for a pair of well-made headphones, such as Bose TrueSound headphones. It’s one purchase you won’t regret.






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Pouf Hamburger. You know You Want One.

Hamburger beanbag
Hamburger beanbag: the right blend of comfort and kitsch.

Next time you camp out to buy tickets to see Adele or Lady Gaga or whoever the kids are listening to these days, leave the lawn chair at home. Chillax in style with this eye-catching and comfortable cushion. The Pouf Hamburger (Hamburger Beanbag in English) lets you add a touch of whimsy to any space. Prop it up on your coach, use it to make an extra seat around the coffee table, or let it cradle your head while you snooze on the bus. If prefer to be prone, separate the “buns”, “patty” and “tomato” and line them up on the floor, using them as an impromptu futon.

Discovering the Joy of Etsy

I found this kitschy cushion on Etsy, and it took me under two minutes of browsing on the site to find it. My point? If you’re looking for something unique, rare or one-of-a-kind (currently, there is only one Hamburger Pouf available) Etsy should be your first stop. It’s a great place to go for gift ideas; some of the presents I’ve found on Etsy include:

  • Fun, vintage embroidery kits
  • An electronic handheld baseball game from the 1980s
  • Christmas-tree-cookie shaped jewelry
  • An iPhone case festooned with a cartoon version of the Beatles
  • A “Gone with the Wind” cookbook

There is also a ton of vintage clothes, handmade toys, fancy French macarons and much, much more. If you’re not an Etsy shopper yet, you will be once you start browsing. It won’t be long before you find that handmade, uniquely-crafted, quirky thing  you just can’t live without.



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