10 Japanese gadgets you'd love to own

From MP3-playing toilets to personal robots

Robots, robots and robots

Robots always feature high on any Japanese wish-list and this year the choice is better than ever. DIY machines that come as kits can be found in every major toy and electronics shop now, with the most innovative being a pair of humanoid machines with rich skill sets.

Pirkus, from Robot Labs of Japan, costs £1,090 and can be controlled by Bluetooth from a mobile phone or PC. The 1kg metal man also has cameras for eyes and a great memory for faces - useful when next year's model gets sent out as a bounty hunter.

Plen, from Systec Akazawa, is another, similarly priced bipedal robot who takes orders by Bluetooth. This time, however, his party piece is not man (or woman) hunting, but roller skating and skateboarding. Hook him up with his own Skype account and he'll even do your bidding from the other side of the world. Escape from Japan rating: 3/10 (for both 'droids) .

Japanese lucky dip

One of the most compelling consumer uses of industrial technology we've encountered came as recently as last week in the form of a whole new level of car automation from Nissan. The company's Fuga model that has just gone on sale includes a raft of radar-based aids that control braking, acceleration and cornering. The pedals even give the driver's feet a nudge when he needs to be a little lighter on his loafers. Escape from Japan rating: 6/10.

Thanko is an oddball company that can always be relied on to give us a laugh with its ludicrous products. 2007 has seen the Tokyo house of fun bombard us with, among others, a USB hay-fever mask, heated USB slippers, gold bar USB hubs and bone-conduction sports headbands. The mind boggles in anticipation of the next twelve months. Escape from Japan rating: 2/10 (unless you find a friendly exporter).

Perhaps even odder, though, is the £835 toilet seat from Toto that performs all the lavatorial functions Japanese bidets are famous for, as well as playing back MP3 tracks from its onboard computer. The F5A Washlet, you see, has an SD card slot for those times when you really can't be parted from your digital music library. Escape from Japan rating: -1 million/10.

Christmas wrap-up

The final slot on our list goes to something that probably surprises most readers in the UK - cheap Japanese technology. Japan is supposed to be one of the most expensive places in the world and, in some respects, it is but if you can handle the language (and the import duty) there's nowhere better to do your gadget shopping.

As it's the season of goodwill, we won't calculate what you could have saved on your entire gift list this year by turning Japanese, but when you consider that, for example, the iPod nano starts at £70 there, the iPod touch is also 20 per cent cheaper than in the UK, and the cheapest PS3 costs just £175 (ouch), that ticket to Tokyo doesn't look so bad. Escape from Japan rating: 10/10 (if you make it to Akihabara, that is).

Lastly, one piece of gear you might not be able to find whatever the cost - Nintendo has no Wii supply problems whatever in its home territory. In fact, they're stacked high in toy shops and gadget stores alike. Oh, and the price? A mere ¥25,000 - that's £110 to you.

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