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.

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