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Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006


DoCoMo's D902i phone, Signeo's MP3 player, Rooshopper tote bags, TEPCO's cooking heater, Stand Kamimakiki

Special to The Japan Times

It's the start of a new year and that often means making changes in your life. Want to be an eco-friendly shopper? Looking to make some much needed improvements in the household? Or maybe you just want to make the people around you exhibit signs of envy by sporting some new 2006 gear. Here are a few things to help brighten up the coming year.

How you gonna call?

DoCoMo's D902i phone

When it comes to stylish mobile handsets, we usually covet the latest and greatest (and prettiest) from the AU Design Project, but we'll be the first ones to admit that the new FOMA 902i Series has pulled off quite an attractive feat with its new collection. They still sport the sort of enhancements we've come to expect from 3G phones (videophone functions, enhanced mail, 2-megapixel camera, mobile payment) and then some, and even introduced a new -- albeit a tad gimmicky -- walkie-talkie-like feature, PushTalk.

But face it, in these days of technological parity, it's all about which phone suits your style, and for that, we have a couple of winners. The bright yellow D902i (also in white, black and pink) from Mitsubishi Electric shines with a large 2.8-inch screen, and the non-clam-shell configuration makes for a nice change from the Japanese norm. As for the F902i by Fujitsu, its silver elegance (our pick over the other black, red and gray models) is just the kind of accessory that suits our inner lust for sleekness and beauty.

It's not so much a question of "Who you gonna call?" but more like, how you gonna do it.


The contender

Signeo's MP3 player

OK, so the iPod reigns supreme in the world of portable MP3 players, but there's still a place for others to try and make a name in this still expanding market, and Signeo's SN-A800 is a worthy competitor. Forget the forgettable name (when will electronic manufacturers realize that serial numbering does not a good name make? ), this flat (6.5-mm deep) card-shaped player was designed by Marc Newson, whose magic touch is no stranger to Japanese electronics (see last year's hugely successful Talby mobile phone for AU).

Available in three color variations (blue, yellow, and black), it supports the major audio formats (MP3, WMA, Ogg Vorbis and WAV), comes in 512MB and 1GB capacities, and even includes an FM tuner and voice recorder function, something the iPod can only manage through accessories.


Eco to go

Rooshopper tote bags

It's not a big stretch to say that we Tokyo residents probably live in the shopping capital of the world, and, that being said, acquiring the perfect shopping bag should be, of course, a prime concern. Look no further than Rootote's new line of Rooshopper tote bags. The uniquely vibrant prints -- the 18 options include jelly beans, coins and even ripped-out calendar pages -- are definitely not run-of-the-mill designs, and are sure to garner some attention from fellow shoppers. The size (280 mm ×550 mm) is pretty typical of most totes, and the price (1,800-2,200 yen yen) is low enough to encourage picking up a few. With the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) movement at a peak these days, the Rooshopper is a nice and simple way to get your "eco" on.


Clean heat

TEPCO's cooking heater

Cooking appliances aren't usually very sexy, yet the Compact IH cooking heater, part of TEPCO's (yeah, the Tokyo Electric Power Company) Switch! design project, is set to heat things up in the kitchen. Elephant Design's simple all-white creation uses Induction Heating (IH) cooking, so there's no need for any gas or electrical rings, making it easy to wipe clean after use. Also, it can be placed on its side, so storage is a breeze. The Compact IH goes for 20,000 yen, and though we can't promise any improvements in your personal attempts at cooking, at least your kitchen space will be cleaner.


Regal accouterments

Toto's Stand Kamimakiki

Toto is about more than just toilets, and the fact that they devote an entire Web site to their design philosophy makes us want to take a second look at what they have to offer. They had a presence at last November's Tokyo Designer's Week's container exhibition (a flip-book installation, in collaboration with Yasuhiro Suzuki), and are no strangers to Good Design Award accolades -- this past year saw no less than 12 mentions. What do we really like? You may laugh, but we've got our heart set on the Stand Kamimakiki (YH63SD). It's only a toilet paper roll holder on a stand, sure, but it's a damn fine looking one, and includes a removable remote for activating with other TOTO accessories. It may be a bit pricey (50,000 yen), but doesn't your throne deserve a worthy scepter?


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