The magic of Japanese space-saving products

cover_sm.jpgWhen my mom came to visit me from Tokyo in August, she brought the summer 2009 edition of a wonderful furniture catalog called Iimono Hakken Jutsu, which roughly translates as The magic of discovering great things. The cover promises 3-day delivery and 24-hours of easy living. From cheap fake bricks to decorate a bland white wall to shoes for pregnant moms, the catalog really does seem to solve every household dilemma in a SkyMall-meets-IKEA-meets-Japanese research lab type of way. Although I live in the US and will probably never own any of these things, I thought I'd show you some of my faves — in particular, the ones that are made to save space. Most Japanese, especially in the cities, live in smaller spaces, which explains why things like refrigerators and vacuum cleaners are on average much tinier there than here. Here are some practical, innovative solutions offered in the Iimono catalog.

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This bulky ironing board alternative consists of a small rectangular bag made just big enough to fit a standard-sized iron; take out the iron, unfold the bag, and you have a portable ironing board surface that can be laid on top of any flat surface. For less than $15.


This revolving bookshelf only takes up 45 square cm of floor space but fits up to 250 comic books or 150 VHS tapes. Amazing right? It comes in five different colors and two height options — 120.5 cm or 166.5 cm — depending on how many books you have or how low your ceiling are. Each costs less than $100.


Many Japanese sleep in the same room that they eat and lounge in — instead of owning beds, they have mattresses (called futons, though not the same as the bulky mess you get in America) and blankets that are hidden in a closet during the day and pulled out at bedtime. But even folded up mattresses can take up a lot of closet space that could and should be used for other things. Using these blanket cases reduces the amount of storage space consumed to 1/3.


And finally, the portable toilet. This is actually supposed to be for emergency use only, but I love that it folds up into a briefcase (see bottom left illo). It costs about $64. Also, it's called the Rescue Toilet.