Japan has a massive portfolio of original inventions it can claim as its own and we couldn’t be more excited to share with you some of the best. Today, Japanese innovations can be found around the world in various forms. Tokyo in particular has been a hotbed for new ideas, eight of which are presented in the following article.
The world’s first bullet train debuted in Tokyo in 1964 just in time for the Olympics, connecting the capital with Nagoya and Osaka. Previously, a trip to Osaka would take half a day, but the new train, with a speed of 210 kilometres per hour, shortened the journey to four hours. Similar transit systems were adopted in many other major cities.
Sawyer, the robot barista, takes orders, grinds the beans, controls the drip machines, and kindly hands in your drink at Henn na Cafe. The cafe opened in February 2018, providing a hint of how Japan could address its pressing labour shortage problem in an era of a rapidly ageing society.
The toilet symbol
The lady in a skirt and the gentleman in trousers symbol that guides you in the right direction when nature calls is everywhere. Not so many know however, that it was invented in Tokyo ahead of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as a part of the Games’ first pictograms: a set of intentional figures that people across languages and borders could easily recognise.
The plastic umbrella
The world’s first plastic umbrella was made in 1958 by the Tokyo-based company White Rose, an umbrella manufacturer with a history of over 300 years. Inspired by a plastic tablecloth, the umbrella was revolutionary: unlike its cotton-made predecessors it never leaked nor tore.
World’s first self-driving taxi
In August 2018 Tokyo hosted the world’s first successful test trials of a self-driving, fare-paying taxi, which will debut on the capital’s public roads ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games. The project is led by ZMP Inc., an autonomous driving technology company, and HINOMARU Kotsu Co., Ltd., a leading taxi company.
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The world’s highest self-standing tower reaches 634 metres above ground overseeing all of Tokyo and, on clear days, distant landmarks like Mount Fuji. The broadcasting, restaurant and observation tower was unveiled to the public in May 2012, becoming Tokyo’s newest symbol of modernism, prosperity and advanced technology.
In 1961, when Kazuo Yamagishi founded his own store in Higashi-Ikebukuro, he acted quickly, serving a new menu that would take everyone by surprise: the dipping noodles. Now a dish served across continents, the tsukemen story has even inspired the documentary The God of Ramen.
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World’s first digital art museum
Spanning over 10,000 square metres of space, the Mori Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless is powered by 520 computers, 470 projectors and endless creativity. The original teamLab was founded in 2001 by five graduate school students with the aim of bringing people together through art.
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