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Japan is a land of tradition and culture with a history stretching back thousands of years and a proud heritage of samurai, ninjas and geisha. However, in contemporary society, Japan is also known for its modernity and innovation, having time and time again created products that have changed the world. Let’s take a look at some Japanese inventions that have spread throughout the world and shaped the way we all live our lives.
1. Electric rice cooker
One of the most essential kitchen utensils in Japanese cuisine is the rice cooker. Before the invention of the rice cooker, rice was cooked by placing well-watered grains in a kamado pot and heating it vigorously with a fire below.
It wasn’t until 1921 that the rice cooker was invented, with an electric heater built into the kamado. Today, rice cookers have made their way into most Japanese homes, and the latest models are constantly evolving, adding features like a timer and cooking rice at fixed degrees depending on the brand of rice.
2. The Shinkansen
The Shinkansen originated as “a dream super express train” when the Tokyo Olympic Games were first held in 1964. The first Shinkansen to enter service at that time was the Tokaido Shinkansen, which connected Tokyo and Shin-Osaka in about 4 hours, a revolutionary innovation that made it extremely easy for people to travel from one major city to another in Japan by super express at over 200 km/h. Today, the Shinkansen is used not only by local residents, but also by tourists and businessmen from abroad.
3. Tactile paving
There are yellow blocks that you almost always see when you walk through the streets of a Japanese city. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the surface of these blocks is covered in little dots and bumps. These are tactile pavements, very useful for people with visual disabilities during their outings.
Visually impaired people can touch the blocks with their sticks to read the directions and warnings given by these blocks. Therefore, it is a traffic regulation that nothing is placed on these blocks so as not to hinder the passage of the blind.
While the desktop PC originated in the United States, the portable laptop PC was actually invented by a Japanese company, Toshiba. In 1989 we saw the launch of a portable PC under the series name “Dynabook” from Toshiba. Soon many computer manufacturers, including NEC, Apple, and IBM, released laptops with new features. This product overturned people’s perception that a computer was something to sit on a desk. Today, people all over the world use laptops.
The Sony Walkman was the first portable music player and was introduced in 1979. At that time, music was stored on cassette tapes or vinyl records, but the Walkman made it possible to take it with you and listen to it anytime. Today, with the development of Sony’s Compact Walkman and Apple’s iPod, more and more people can listen to music on the go. But the Walkman had a huge impact on the music industry at the time, and it will always have a place in our hearts.
6. The novel
The Tale of Genji is a long work of romantic literature written by Murasaki Shikibu, active in the Heian period. Describes the love story, the glory and the fall of the main character Hikaru Genji.
At that time, his literature was well received among Murasaki Shikibu’s friends and quickly became very popular among the aristocracy. Later, during the Edo period, picture scrolls and other works based on the tale of Genji were created, which had a great influence on the Japanese art world.
Not only that, it has had a profound influence on the culture of Japan today. For example, Kawabata Yasunari, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, would have liked to read The Story of Genji, and his student Mishima Yukio also wrote a novel based on it. Although his literature has evolved and been independently adapted around the world, The Tale of Genji is considered the first known complete novel by modern standards and will always hold a deep place in Japanese culture.
7. Blue LED lights
The history of LEDs began with the invention of the red LED in 1962 by Nick Holonyak, Jr., born in Illinois, USA. LEDs are a type of semiconductor known as light-emitting diodes. At that time, this LED light could only produce a dim, dark red color. Later, Mr. George Crawford developed the yellow-green LED in 1972. In 1989, the LED industry underwent a major change.
Three Japanese scientists managed to invent a blue LED light. This brought together the three primary colors of red, blue, and yellow-green, increasing the range of colors available in LED lights and allowing a variety of expressions to be created with these lights. Nowadays, LED lamps are used not only for room lighting, but also in various places, such as traffic lights.
The car navigation system, which is useful for checking your location and where you want to go while driving, is actually an invention that originated in Japan. The world’s first car navigation system was developed by Honda in 1981. At the time, GPS was not widely available, and it is said not to be user-friendly, requiring proper configuration of the current location before use. .
Later, however, GPS car navigation systems were created, to which a function of providing directions was added, and car navigation systems are said to have spread rapidly. The car navigation system is one of the most indispensable devices for our motorists today, and many cannot imagine a world without it.
9. Instant noodles
One of the inventions that Japan is most proud of and that has had a great impact on gastronomy is the instant cup noodles. Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissina Foods, developed “Chicken Ramen” as a solution to Japan’s post-war food crisis, and sales of instant noodles have skyrocketed ever since.
At the time, it was revolutionary to be able to make ramen by simply pouring hot water into a cup. However, it is said that a lot of time and money was invested in the development of Chicken Ramen and a large number of prototypes were made. The turning point came when Momofuku Ando saw his wife frying tempura, which gave him the idea of ”frying noodles”. Today, they are sold as “Cup Noodles” in many countries around the world and are happily eaten by millions of people.
10. DVD and Blu-Ray Discs
The development of DVD and Blu-ray discs began with a request from the Hollywood industry in the United States to develop a low-cost optical disc that could store the capacity of a single high-quality movie. Initially, development was started by Sony and Philips, who were leading the CD standard at the time. Meanwhile, Toshiba, which had already started development of a new optical disc, sought cooperation from Matsushita Electric Industrial (now Panasonic), which had strong video development technology and developed its own optical disc.
Soon other electronic companies such as Hitachi and Pioneer also began to endorse Toshiba and Matsushita electronics. Fearing that the DVD standard would become complicated due to increased competition between different companies, these companies began negotiations. As a result, the new drive was created using technology from Sony and Philips with the help of Panasonic and Toshiba.
Years later, Sony took the lead in developing the Blu-ray disc, which far exceeded the capacity of DVDs. Today, DVD and Blu-ray discs may be used less frequently due to the expansion of Internet streaming sales, but before streaming sales, DVD and Blu-ray discs were very useful for watching movies and cartoons repeatedly.
In this article, we introduce 10 Japanese inventions developed by Japanese people. Have you ever used any of them? From home appliances closely tied to Japanese food culture, such as rice cookers, to laptop computers now used around the world, many machines born in Japan have influenced people’s lives not only in Japan but around the world. .
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