cover image 283 Useful Ideas from Japan

283 Useful Ideas from Japan

Chronicle Books, Leonard Koren. Chronicle Books, $9.95 (174pp) ISBN 978-0-87701-483-6

Koren, an architect and author of New Fashion Japan, divides his time between San Francisco and Tokyo. The Japanese, he proclaims, are ``the world's retailers par excellence,'' ferociously competitive yet with a high regard for service, quality and customer satisfaction. They bring ``fresh assumptions and methods to a weary Western industrialized world,'' he writes, offering 283 conceptssome clever and innovative, others already available herefor ``armchair entrepreneurs.'' Included are specially textured sidewalks for the blind, public pollution monitors, restaurants on wheels and inexpensive cook-it-yourself eateries, ``capsule hotels'' (with Pullman-style sleeping compartments), toilets for hemorrhoid sufferers, video billboards, public telephones with dual receivers (for three-way conversations) and head-cooling pillows. All are currently in use in Japan, Koren maintains. Each idea is assigned a single page here and displayed in a comic book-style illustration by Tokyo artist Mihara with the explanation tightly edited into an informative caption. In an appendix, Koren expands on these captions and lists many Japanese business phone numbers and addresses. The new notions may excite entrepreneurs, but even casual readers will find this glimpse of the commonplace in modern-day Japan both startling and amusing. (July)