1. UNDIE DRYING RACK: Lets you mask your unmentionables in a way that’s decorous instead of decorative.
2. BLUE-CHEESE ICE CREAM: For a sundae you’ll still taste on Monday, add a scoop of horseradish ice cream.
3. BOOB TUBE EXTREMIS: Bare-breasted women are nothing unusual on Japanese TV. One talk show features topless beauties in the background while fully clad guests chat.
4. TECHNICOLOR SOY SAUCE: A rainbow of condiments to dye for.
5. $100 ABSOLUTELY SPHERICAL MELONS: Grown suspended in air for perfect shape. Prized as gifts (but hard to wrap).
6. BOSS DAY: Also honored besides employers—Vacuum Cleaner Day (May 30), Refrigerator Day (June 22) and Washer Day (Aug. 1).
7. CANNED ROSES: Vacuum-packed for easy storage and romantic emergencies. And there’ll be plenty if you give these very often.
8. CARTOONIZATION: Japanese publishers offer comic-book versions of everything from corporate training manuals to government reports. S&M porno comics are especially big with businessmen, who peruse the latest Rapeman on the 8:18 from Yokohama with none but Western visitors looking askance.
9. FRISKY BATH MATES: Cute little monkeys or bear cubs are on hand to enliven the waters at some hot-spring resorts.
10. HIGH-TECH TOILETS: Wall-mounted control panels offer variable-temperature seating, pulse and blood pressure readings, a urine sugar test, retractable bidet nozzle and air-flow bottom-dryer. Also popular is a musical tissue dispenser that plays a tune as it unrolls. Now really, who could keep their seat when “It’s a Small World After All” begins?
11. UMBRELLA BAGS: Throwaway plastic sheaths to keep wet umbrellas from dripping in stores and offices. Dispensed at the door, discarded when you leave.
12. VENDING MACHINE MADNESS: Coin-operated merchandising is ubiquitous. A few yen in the right slot can buy porno mags, cheap jewelry, floppy discs, raw eggs, condoms in all colors, cold beer, hot sake, Bibles and whiskey. Only the strict Japanese sense of honor prevents minors from purchasing the no-no’s.
13. PLASTIC PINEAPPLES: An exercise device for arthritis sufferers; it softens (as if ripening) when squeezed.
14. GOLD-FLECKED TOOTHPASTE: 14-karat status-sprinkles also come in cakes, candy, noodles and coffee (about $350 per cup). Japanese doctors say the gold is harmless in small amounts. It’s the conspicuous consumption that’s indigestible.
15. FLUSH SIMULATOR: A portable speaker that produces the sound of a toilet flushing while you’re in the bathroom. Supposedly conserves water by eliminating the need for cover-up flushing.
16. COMMERCIAL STUTTER: TV ads that are shown twice in a row for impact. Every five minutes isn’t enough?
17. REGAIN: A bottled caffeine and vitamin drink for workaholic corporate climbers. Its ad jingle (“Can you fight 24 hours, Japanese businessman?”) topped the pop charts.
18. HAND DEODORANT: A hit with the young.
19. 100-YEAR MORTGAGES: Real estate is so pricey that one’s heirs may have to assume the house payments. Sort of a small-scale version of the U.S. budget deficit.
20. ALIBI ALLEY: A company provides taped background sounds (of a pinball parlor, bowling alley or street noises) for when you’re phoning sheepishly to explain your whereabouts. Tip to husbands who might be calling home: Bring a can of roses.