In for the gold by a mile: the Electric Sweet Potato Roaster
In the steamy competition for Most Japanese Appliance Ever, I think you’ll have to agree that the electric sweet potato roaster owns the podium. Not only is it good for making one thing (and one thing only), that thing is the most Japanese winter treat ever. I mean, when was the last time you went to the mall and heard an American child relentlessly pestering his mom for a ROASTED VEGETABLE? The reason there even is a roasted sweet potato appliance is actually sort of interesting, though: Japanese apartments don’t have ovens. Yep, you heard it right. No ovens. No cookies, no bread, no turkey, no tuna noodle casserole, nothing. So, if you’re in Japan and jonesing for a righteous roasted sweet potato, you have to buy it from this guy:
(Sorry for the weird format – I shot this from my apartment balcony years ago before attaining mad phone video skillz. This clip is all about hearing the Pavarotti of yakimo vendor singers, so watch it with the sound on for the full nostalgic effect.)
Edging out the next nearest competitor for the silver: the DIY Natto Mill
Why anyone would want to eat stinky fermented soybeans – much less create a hotbed of stinky soybean manufacturing in one’s own claustrophobic apartment – remains a mystery to me. But thanks to this handy automatic natto maker, now you can. I hope you have the world’s largest family or love natto so much you want to marry it, because this sucker doesn’t mess around, quantity-wise. Judging by the size of typical one-serving packs sold at the supermarket, this makes enough for yourself plus any number of hungry Godzillas who might stop by unexpectedly for a chat.
And crossing the line for the bronze: the Instant Miso Soup Pot
Taking the “we’ll sell you the printer cheap, then fleece you forever on the ink tanks” model to a whole new level, this instant miso soup maker nearly won on points. You have to admire how, even though all it really does is heat water, mix it with soup concentrate, and dispense it into your bowl, it can’t be used to make tea, coffee, instant ramen, or any of the countless other things that you can make with your regular electric hot water pot (the one you had to unplug in order to plug this one in).
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!