Urawaza: Secret Everyday Tips and Tricks from Japan -- Make Magazine meets Hints From Heloise by way of postwar Japan

Lisa Katayama's Urawaza: Secret Everyday Tips and Tricks from Japan is a perfectly charming, utterly 21st century household hints book that is sure to surprise you at least five times, in a most delightfully useful way.

The household ingenuity captured herein really caught fire in the post-war period, when Occupied Japan's poor economy made a virtue out of frugal and clever homebrew products. The name Urawaza comes from gamer slang, referring to the programmers' back-doors that let players gain points, levels and advantage by doing something unexpected, and it's the perfect appellation for the surprisingly satisfying knowledge that you can keep your cut flowers longer by dropping a copper penny in the water, carry a heavy box more readily if you stack it atop a lighter one, and so on.

Each of these Urawazas comes with a technical explanation of why it is believed to work, and the book itself is framed as a kind of commentary on the dying away of ingenuity in our era of cheap, specialized products. The writing is great, and Joel Holland's infographic-style illos are the perfect complement to the text. Link


  1. Looks like a must-read. So urawaza translates almost directly into ‘lifehack’? Heh.

    I love how, especially with kitchen and cleaning and beauty ‘hacks’, there’s always this weird underpinning of urban legend and oral history. There are just certain gnostic truths passed down as old wives’ tales (wipe with newspaper for a streak-free window; chicken soup is mysteriously curative).

    It is so bizarrely fulfilling to collect helpful tricks, and also, handy gizmos. There is no feeling so giddy as discovering something Really Useful. Why is that? Where does that come from?

  2. The term urawaza is far, far older than gaming. It may be the latest use of it but It has been used in just about any endeavor in Japan from sports to cooking, whatever. It’s just a hidden and unexpected technique to gain “the upper hand”, if you will.

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