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And This Year’s Winners In The Tournament Of Weird Japanese Appliances Are…

In for the gold by a mile: the Electric Sweet Potato Roaster

You know you want one. Get it at Yodobashi Camera, in Akihabara

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

Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku sells this appliance of dubious worth

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

Yodabashi Camera in Akihabara will happily take your money for this one

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).

After enjoying her roasted sweet potatoes with natto and miso soup, Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo

“A genuinely gripping crime thriller which wrong-foots and perplexes the reader throughout, drawing us in emotionally . . . Highly recommended.” Raven Crime Reads

Nine Years. Nine death anniversaries. Tomorrow will be the tenth. He always comes early to avoid crossing paths with her family. He always comes on the day he actually killed her…read more

Jonelle Patrick View All

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!

2 thoughts on “And This Year’s Winners In The Tournament Of Weird Japanese Appliances Are… Leave a comment

  1. These are great! I miss the Yakimo Man who worked our neighborhood.
    Oh, the horror of the Natto machine.🤪 Like the printer ink/soup mix comparison.
    Thank you for these, Jonelle!
    Happy New Year! 🐗

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    • I miss hearing the yakimo man too! I don’t live in that neighborhood anymore, and the guy who comes to where I live now just parks outside the station and doesn’t broadcast the singing (which is, of course, the best part) ( ; _ ; )

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