10 Japanese gadgets you'd love to own

From MP3-playing toilets to personal robots

The end of a year is the traditional time for reflection in this gadget-peddling business we love so much.

But what's an honest hack to do when so much of the best gear is never going to be available to those 99.9 per cent of readers who live outside of the Far East? That's right - tease you with them all over again in our look back at the best 'Only in Japan' items of 2007.

Who remembers RFID?

Standout of the year is a wireless technology that really matured over the last twelve months. RFID chips have been in new Japanese phones for a couple of years now, in travel cards since 2001, and they appear to have finally reached critical mass this year.
Such has been the rapid spread of the e-cash chips in phone handsets, it's difficult to find a shop in greater Tokyo that doesn't have a reader for at least one of the major flavours - be it Suica, Pasmo, Edy or Nanaco, there's little need for filthy old cash in Japan. It's a scenario that's sure to play out in the West in about, oh.... 2045.

The inevitability of RFID making it to phones everywhere, therefore, means it's sure to spread far and wide from Japan, giving it an 'Escape from Japan' rating of 10/10 (so very likely, but it'll take a while, ok?) .

Mobile phones of the year

Speaking of phones, it's no secret that your correspondent isn't a massive fan of the quotidian design of most handsets from Japan. Apart from one. Sanyo's Infobar 2 recently hit KDDI's network and has been selling out faster than Led Zepp tickets to mulleted old rockers.

The stylish phone weighs just 104g, yet includes the very-necessary RFID chip and software mentioned above, as well as a digital TV tuner, GPS and plenty more. Gorgeous design concealing gadgetry galore isn't unique to Japan, but the Infobar 2 is for sure. Escape from Japan rating: 0/10.

Our only other Japanese handset of note makes the list because it satisfies a genuine need - that of parents to protect their children. NTT DoCoMo's F801i is made by Fujitsu and features a million and one ways of notifying us where our kids are.

GPS location notifications flood in by email to registered addresses when the phone is switched off, when it is separated from a tracking device worn by the child, when a button is pressed and when there's an R in the month. A 100dB alarm with a high-intensity flashing light completes a thoughtful product that's also a little scary. Escape from Japan rating: 3/10.

That's OLED entertainment

The year's most talked-about telly is undoubtedly Sony's XEL-1 OLED TV - it's the 11-inch OLED screen that's just 3mm thick that you've probably drooled over at some point. We've seen it in the plastic here several times and can assure you... we feel your pain.

With a contrast ratio of over 1,000,000:1 and a price tag the thick end of £1,000, the XEL-1 takes the breath away at every turn, which is why it, or at least OLED tellies in general, are guaranteed to spread in the next few years. Escape from Japan rating: 10/10.

The other television-related trend on view this year has been the Japanese terrestrial digital technology known as 1-seg. Tuners for the low-bandwidth version of digital TV aimed at mobile devices can be found in everything from electronic dictionaries to - of course - phones.

1-seg tends to appeal most to older people keen to catch up on the day's news on the way home from work, rather than to trend-setting youngsters. Still, regional variants on the mobile digi box will likely succeed elsewhere before long. Escape from Japan rating: 7/10.