Archive for May, 2012

Smartphones hook up with domestic appliances

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

The iRemocon device controls your domestic appliances via smartphone

Want to turn on the AC so that you can come home to a cool apartment, or run a bath before you even step through the door? Clever systems that allow you to remotely control your household appliances from your smartphone are now trending in Japan. The iRemocon from Glamo, Inc  has been on the market since last summer and an Android version went on the market at the end of January this year.  DENSO, working with Toyota Housing and Misawa Homes, has a  system called HEMS (home energy management system) in the pipeline, although the launch appears to have been delayed.

Apart from the rush of omnipotence it gives gadget freaks, being able to remotely dominate your domestic domain from afar also benefits the environment by encouraging increased energy efficiency. The aircon, for example, can be set to be switched off automatically during the night with a pre-programmed function (though it has to be said that there are plenty of air conditioners on the market that already enable you to do this) and the remote feature allows you to make sure you haven’t left appliances on when you’re out of the house.

Both systems use a device installed in the home that can be programmed to communicate with domestic electronic devices. Though iRemocon appears to have beaten the HEMS system to the punch with its launch last year, HEMS will provide useful data to the customer about energy consumption and CO2 emissions, giving it the edge as an environmentally friendly product.

But otaku props go to iRemocon, which gives users the ability to customize their own remote control skin on their smartphone app and also lets users record their favorite TV shows while they’re out. Another bonus of the system is that it can be used to guard against theft: When you’re on holiday you can pre-program your home lights to be switched off and on, giving the impression that the place is occupied.

Panasonic is also exploring ways to get smartphones interacting with appliances. The new SR-SX2 Series of rice cookers and NE-R Series of steam ovens (to be launched in June) are both programmable by smartphone. Simply hover the smartphone over the device to set up the cooking times. If you’re wondering why people would choose to do this rather than pushing the buttons on the device itself, the answer is that this way things are supposedly simplified. The app for these products has a database of recipes which users can choose from. Once they’ve decided on the meal they’re going to cook, the app manages the settings on the appliance for you. An attractive option for those who can’t be bothered to read the manual.

Anyone for French toast … cooked with mayo?

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

French toast topped with strawberries

French toast topped with strawberries, served at Cafe Fredy Ginza.

Gooey and golden brown, French toast is a versatile food that can be eaten for breakfast with a dollop of syrup or for lunch with a glob of ketchup. Now trending in Japan, according to an online article in Peachy, French toast is an increasingly popular menu item. But, of course, the Japanese have their own inimitable take on the traditional recipe: From over-the-top toppings to unusual secret ingredients, it’s being altered in a variety of creative ways to suit the demanding palates of modern Japanese.

To sample the cutting edge of this new cuisine trend, head to Harajuku. Pain Petit Pas opened last year in a space that resembles the insanely popular crepe stalls that can be found all around the teen-shopping mecca. A tiny establishment that offers up a Disneyfied version of French chic, breakfast is the traditional syrup-covered French toast, but it gets really creative at lunch time with toppings of salmon and cream cheese, bacon, or sour cream. The secret of their delicious toast is marinating the bread for one whole day in the egg and milk mix. No doubt they took their cue from Hotel Okura’s recipe, rated the best French toast in Tokyo by B! Hatena News.

The dipping mix is also being altered by Japanese chefs cooking at home. In 2009, a recipe for mayo French toast appeared on Cookpad. The recipe swaps out eggs in favour of mayo, advising chefs to mix it in as much as possible with the milk before letting the bread marinate in the mix. The resulting meal has been rated as surprisingly tasty by many visitors to the site. “I’ve made this tons of times for breakfast. The children also eat lots of it,” writes user Rindeorinsu. While the idea of hot mayo may not be too appealing to Westerners, it’s worth noting that mayo is a popular pizza topping in Japan.

Another new take on French toast is being served up at the Fujiko F Fujiko Museum in Kawasaki. The museum, which opened for business in September last year, is dedicated to the creator of the popular comic book Doraemon and contains a ton of Doraemon-themed attractions. One, according to Biglobe News, is the Ankipan French Toast served in the museum’s cafe. In the cartoon, the bespectacled hero Nobuta eats some magical anikipan (“memorizing bread”) instead of studying for his exams. Served with ice cream and chocolate sauce, the ankipan in the cafe has equations seared onto its surface, just like the magical treat in the cartoon.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, possibly the most outrageous French toast dessert is served up at Loncafe in Enoshima. Toppings on offer include ice cream, apple pie, caramel banana and mango. For birthdays, they’ll even stick a few sparklers into these over-the-top desserts.

Photo credit: dreamcat115 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Pulsations (05.04.12)

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Superhero time 5-1-12 (from Japanator): Your friends at Japan Pulse are very disappointed that you haven’t kept track of your favorite Japanese superhero tv-shows. This post recaps some of the latest episodes – read it, or no rice balls for you!
  • Bang A Gong (from Shisaku): It’s award season at the government quarters in Tokyo. A great day of bureaucrats pinning orders on other bureaucrats — unless, of course, the other bureaucrats are women.
  • Unmanned Wave-Powered Boat Developed by Tokai University (from Japan for Sustainability): Sure, a boat that can harvest energy from waves and sail unmanned around the world is impressive and everything, but just remember this: One day, when machines have taken control of our civilization, we will look back and blame Japan.
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