List of Japanese inventions and discoveries

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This is a list of Japanese inventions and discoveries. Though the Japanese contributed in a number of fileds, the country plays a crucial role in the digital revolution since the 1970s, with many revolutionary and widespread technologies in the fields of electronics and robotics being introduced by Japanese companies and entrepreneurs. Japanese popular culture, strongly shaped by its electronic technologies, also considerably influences younger Western populations.

Film and animation[edit]

Scene from the first episode of Pokémon, one of the most well-known anime.
The mecha genre features combat scenes involving giant robots. Pictured: mass-produced versions of Metal Gear REX on a conventional battlefield.
See also: Cinema of Japan and Anime
Japanese animation, or anime, today widely popular among both Japanese and Western youngsters, began in the early 20th century.
Man with No Name
A stock character that originated with Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961), where the archetype was first portrayed by Toshirō Mifune. The archetype was adapted by Sergio Leone for his Spaghetti Western Dollars Trilogy (1964-1966), with Clint Eastwood playing the role of the "Man with No Name". It is now a common archetype in Samurai films and Western films as well as other genres.[1]
The mecha genre of science fiction was founded in Japan. The first depiction of mecha Super Robots being piloted by a user from within a cockpit was introduced in the manga and anime series Mazinger Z by Go Nagai in 1972.[2]
Postcyberpunk animation/film
The first postcyberpunk media work in an animated/film format was Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex in 2002. It has been called "the most interesting, sustained postcyberpunk media work in existence."[3]
Steampunk animation
The earliest examples of steampunk animation are Hayao Miyazaki's anime works Future Boy Conan (1978),[4] Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)[5] and Castle in the Sky (1986).[6][7]
A postmodern art form, founded by the artist Takashi Murakami, which is influenced by manga and anime.[8]


Japanese castle
Fortresses constructed primarily out of stone and wood used for military defence in strategic locations.[9]
A post-war Japanese architectural movement developed by a wide variety of Japanese architects including Kiyonori Kikutake, Kisho Kurokawa and Fumihiko Maki, Metabolism aimed to fuse ideas about architectural megastructures with those of organic biological growth.[10]
Tahōtō is a form of Japanese pagoda found primarily at Esoteric Shingon and Tendai school Buddhist temples. Unlike most pagodas, it has two stories.[11]


Written text from the earliest illustrated handscroll (12th century) of The Tale of Genji
Flying saucer
A manuscript illustration of the 10th-century Japanese narrative, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, depicts a round flying machine similar to a flying saucer.[12]
The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, is regarded as the first novel in general.[13]
Time travel
The 8th-century tale of Urashima Tarō has been identified as the earliest example of a story involving time travel.[14]


Drifting competition
In 1988, Keiichi Tsuchiya alongside Option magazine founder and chief editor Daijiro Inada organised the first contest specifically for sliding a car sideway. In 1996, Option organized the first contest outside Japan[15] which began to spread to other countries.
Radio-controlled touring car
In 1991, Tamiya mounted a 1/10 scale Nissan Skyline GT-R (a Group A racer) body to a modified off-road buggy chassis[16] which was credited for the resurgence of the R/C car market in the mid-1990s[17][18]

Martial arts[edit]

All-Japan Judo Championships, 2007 men's final.
Aikido was created and developed by Morihei Ueshiba in first half of the 20th century.
Jujutsu, the "way of yielding", is a collective name for Japanese martial art styles including unarmed and armed techniques. Jujutsu evolved among the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for defeating an armed and armored opponent without weapons. Due to the ineffectiveness of striking against an armored opponent, the most efficient methods for neutralizing an enemy took the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. These techniques were developed around the principle of using an attacker's energy against him, rather than directly opposing it.[19]
It began as a common fighting system known as "ti" (or "te") among the pechin class of the Ryukyuans. There were few formal styles of ti, but rather many practitioners with their own methods. One surviving example is the Motobu-ryū school passed down from the Motobu family by Seikichi Uehara.[20] Early styles of karate are often generalized as Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te, named after the three cities from which they emerged.[21]
Developed by groups of people mainly from the Iga Province and Kōka, Shiga of Japan. Throughout history, many different schools (ryū) have taught their unique versions of ninjutsu. An example of these is the Togakure-ryū. This ryū was developed after a defeated samurai warrior called Daisuke Togakure escaped to the region of Iga. Later he came in contact with the warrior-monk Kain Doshi who taught him a new way of viewing life and the means of survival (ninjutsu).[22]
Okinawan martial arts
In the 14th century, when the three kingdoms on Okinawa (Chūzan, Hokuzan, and Nanzan) entered into a tributary relationship with the Ming Dynasty of China, Chinese Imperial envoys and other Chinese arrived, some of whom taught Chinese Chuan Fa (Kempo) to the Okinawans. The Okinawans combined Chinese Chuan Fa with the existing martial art of Te to form Tō-de (唐手 Okinawan: Tū-dī?, Tang hand), sometimes called Okinawa-te (沖縄手?).[23] By the 18th century, different types of Te had developed in three different villages - Naha, Shuri, and Tomari. The styles were named Naha-te, Shuri-te, and Tomari-te, respectively. Practitioners from these three villages went on to develop modern karate.[24]

Video games[edit]

Controller of the PlayStation 2, the best-selling video game console of all time.
Playing Dance Dance Revolution, one of the most successful rhythm games.
The Sony PlayStation was invented by Ken Kutaragi. Research and development for the PlayStation began in 1990, headed by Kutaragi, a Sony engineer.[25]
Gunpei Yokoi was the creator of the Game Boy and Virtual Boy and worked on Famicom (and NES), the Metroid series, Game Boy Pocket and did extensive work on the system we know today as the Nintendo Entertainment System.[26]
Active Time Battle
Hiroyuki Ito introduced the "Active Time Battle" system in Final Fantasy IV (1991),[27] where the time-keeping system does not stop.[28] Square Co., Ltd. filed a United States patent application for the ATB system on March 16, 1992, under the title "Video game apparatus, method and device for controlling same" and was awarded the patent on February 21, 1995. On the battle screen, each character has an ATB meter that gradually fills, and the player is allowed to issue a command to that character once the meter is full.[29] The fact that enemies can attack or be attacked at any time is credited with injecting urgency and excitement into the combat system.[28]
Beat 'em up
The first game to feature fist fighting was Sega's boxing game Heavyweight Champ (1976), but it was Data East's fighting game Karate Champ (1984) which popularized martial arts themed games.[30] The same year, Hong Kong cinema-inspired Kung-Fu Master laid the foundations for scrolling beat 'em ups with its simple gameplay and multiple enemies.[30][31] Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun, released in 1986 in Japan, deviated from the martial arts themes of earlier games and introduced street brawling to the genre. Renegade (released the same year) added an underworld revenge plot that proved more popular with gamers than the principled combat sport of other games.[32] Renegade set the standard for future beat 'em up games as it introduced the ability to move both horizontally and vertically.[33]
Bullet hell
The bullet hell or danmaku genre began to emerge in the early 1990's as 2D developers needed to find a way to compete with 3D games which were becoming increasingly popular at the time. Toaplan's Batsugun (1993) is considered to be the ancestor of the modern bullet hell genre.[34] The Touhou Project series is one of the most popular bullet hell franchises.
Fighting game
Sega's black and white boxing game Heavyweight Champ was released in 1976 as the first video game to feature fist fighting.[35] However, Data East's Karate Champ from 1984 is credited with establishing and popularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre, and went on to influence Konami's Yie Ar Kung-Fu from 1985.[36] Yie Ar Kung Fu expanded on Karate Champ by pitting the player against a variety of opponents, each with a unique appearance and fighting style.[36][37] Capcom's Street Fighter (1987) introduced the use of special moves that could only be discovered by experimenting with the game controls. Street Fighter II (1991) established the conventions of the fighting game genre and, whereas previous games allowed players to combat computer-controlled fighters, Street Fighter II allowed players to play against each other.[38]
Platform game
Space Panic, a 1980 arcade release, is sometimes credited as the first platform game.[39] It was clearly an influence on the genre, with gameplay centered on climbing ladders between different floors, a common element in many early platform games. Donkey Kong, an arcade game created by Nintendo, released in July 1981, was the first game that allowed players to jump over obstacles and across gaps, making it the first true platformer.[40]
Psychological horror game
Silent Hill (1999) was praised for moving away survival horror games from B movie horror elements to the psychological style seen in art house or Japanese horror films,[41] due to the game's emphasis on a disturbing atmosphere rather than visceral horror.[42] The original Silent Hill is considered one of the scariest games of all time,[43] and the strong narrative from Silent Hill 2 in 2001 has made the series one of the most influential in the genre.[44] Fatal Frame from 2001 was a unique entry into the genre, as the player explores a mansion and takes photographs of ghosts in order to defeat them.[45][46]
Rhythm game
Dance Aerobics was released in 1987, and allowed players to create music by stepping on Nintendo's Power Pad peripheral. It has been called the first rhythm-action game in retrospect,[47] although the 1996 title PaRappa the Rapper has also been deemed the first rhythm game, whose basic template forms the core of subsequent games in the genre. In 1997, Konami's Beatmania sparked an emergent market for rhythm games in Japan. The company's music division, Bemani, released a number of music games over the next several years.
Scrolling platformer
The first platform game to use scrolling graphics was Jump Bug (1981), a simple platform-shooter developed by Alpha Denshi.[48] In August 1982, Taito released Jungle King,[49] which featured scrolling jump and run sequences that had players hopping over obstacles. Namco took the scrolling platformer a step further with the 1984 release Pac-Land. Pac-Land came after the genre had a few years to develop, and was an evolution of earlier platform games, aspiring to be more than a simple game of hurdle jumping, like some of its predecessors.[50] It closely resembled later scrolling platformers like Wonder Boy and Super Mario Bros and was probably a direct influence on them. It also had multi-layered parallax scrolling.[51][52]
Shoot 'em up
Space Invaders is frequently cited as the "first" or "original" in the genre.[53][54] Space Invaders pitted the player against multiple enemies descending from the top of the screen at a constantly increasing rate of speed.[54] As with subsequent shoot 'em ups of the time, the game was set in space as the available technology only permitted a black background. The game also introduced the idea of giving the player a number of "lives". Space Invaders was a massive commercial success, causing a coin shortage in Japan.[55][56] The following year, Namco's Galaxian took the genre further with more complex enemy patterns and richer graphics.[53][57]
Stealth game
The first stealth-based videogame was Sega's 005 (1981).[58][59][60] The first commercially successful stealth game was Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear (1987), the first in the Metal Gear series. It was followed by Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990) which significantly expanded the genre, and then Metal Gear Solid (1998).
Survival horror
The survival horror video game genre began with Capcom's Resident Evil (1996), which coined the term "survival horror" and defined the genre.[61][62] The game was inspired by Capcom's earlier horror game Sweet Home (1989).[63]
Visual Novel
The visual novel genre is a type of Interactive fiction developed in Japan in the early 1990's. As the name suggests, visual novels typically have limited interactivity, as most player interaction is restricted to clicking text and graphics.[64]


Lean manufacturing
A generic process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS) (hence the term Toyotism is also prevalent) and identified as "Lean" only in the 1990s.[65][66]

Biomedical science[edit]

Image from "Surgical Casebook" (Kishitsu geryō zukan) by Hanaoka Seishu
Tooth patch
Scientists in Japan have created a microscopically thin film that can coat individual teeth to prevent decay or to make them appear whiter, the chief researcher said. The “tooth patch” is a hard-wearing and ultra-flexible material made from hydroxyapatite, the main mineral in tooth enamel, that could also mean an end to sensitive teeth. “This is the world’s first flexible apatite sheet, which we hope to use to protect teeth or repair damaged enamel,” said Shigeki Hontsu, professor at Kinki University’s Faculty of Biology-Oriented Science and Technology in western Japan.[67]
Mutsuo Sugiura was a Japanese engineer famous for being the first to develop a Gastro-camera (a present-day Esophagogastroduodenoscope). His story was illustrated in the NHK TV documentary feature, "Project X: Challengers: The Development of a Gastro-camera Wholly Made in Japan".

Sugiura graduated from Tokyo Polytechnic University in 1938 and then joined Olympus Corporation. While working at this company, he first developed an Esophagogastroduodenoscope in 1950.

General anesthesia
Hanaoka Seishū was the first surgeon in the world who used the general anaesthesia in surgery, in 1804, and who dared to operate on cancers of the breast and oropharynx, to remove necrotic bone, and to perform amputations of the extremities in Japan.[68]
Chi Machine
A device created by Japanese scientist Dr. Shizuo Inoue. It holds US FDA approval as a Class 1 Medical Device Regulation #890.5660.[69]
A form of diastase which results from the growth, development and nutrition of a distinct microscopic fungus known as Aspergillus oryzae. Jokichi Takamine developed the method first used for its extraction in the late 19th century.[70]
Portable electrocardiograph
Taro Takemi built the first portable electrocardiograph in 1937.[71]
Taro Takemi invented Vectorcardiograph in 1939.[71]
Aspergillus genome
The genome for Aspergillus oryzae was sequenced and released by a consortium of Japanese biotechnology companies,[72] in late 2005.[73]
Epinephrine (Adrenaline)
Japanese chemist Jokichi Takamine and his assistant Keizo Uenaka first discovered epinephrine in 1900.[74][75] In 1901 Takamine successfully isolated and purified the hormone from the adrenal glands of sheep and oxen.[76]
Chemical structure of methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine was first synthesized from ephedrine in Japan in 1894 by chemist Nagayoshi Nagai.[77]
Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Thiamine was the first of the water-soluble vitamins to be described,[78] leading to the discovery of more such trace compounds essential for survival and to the notion of vitamin. It was not until 1884 that Kanehiro Takaki (1849-1920) attributed beriberi to insufficient nitrogen intake (protein deficiency). In 1910, Japanese scientist Umetaro Suzuki succeeded in extracting a water-soluble complex of micronutrients from rice bran and named it aberic acid. He published this discovery in a Japanese scientific journal.[79] The Polish biochemist Kazimierz Funk later proposed the complex be named "Vitamine" (a portmanteau of "vital amine") in 1912.[80]

Food science[edit]

Instant noodles before cooking.
Instant noodle
Invented by Momofuku Ando in 1958.[81]
Monosodium glutamate
Invented and patented by Kikunae Ikeda.[82]
Umami as a separate taste was first identified in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University while researching the strong flavor in seaweed broth.[83]


A page from Seki Kōwa's Katsuyo Sampo (1712), tabulating binomial coefficients and Bernoulli numbers
Bernoulli number
Studied by Seki Kōwa and published after his death, in 1712. Jacob Bernoulli independently developed the concept in the same period, though his work was published a year later.[84][85][86]
In Japan, determinants were introduced to study elimination of variables in systems of higher-order algebraic equations. They used it to give shorthand representation for the resultant. The determinant as an independent function was first studied by Seki Kōwa in 1683.[86][87]
Elimination theory
In 1683 (Kai-Fukudai-no-Hō), Seki Kōwa came up with elimination theory, based on resultant.[87] To express resultant, he developed the notion of determinant.[87]
In 1683 (Kai-Fukudai-no-Hō), Seki Kōwa came up with elimination theory, based on resultant. To express resultant, he developed the notion of determinant.[87]
Japanese geometrical puzzles in Euclidean geometry on wooden tablets created during the Edo period (1603–1867) by members of all social classes. The Dutch Japanologist Isaac Titsingh first introduced sangaku to the West when he returned to Europe in the late 1790s after more than twenty years in the Far East.[88]
Soddy's hexlet
Irisawa Shintarō Hiroatsu analyzed Soddy's hexlet in a Sangaku in 1822.[89]
Itô calculus
Developed by Kiyosi Itô throughout the 20th century, Itô calculus extends calculus to stochastic processes such as Brownian motion (Wiener process). Its basic concept is the Itô integral, and among the most important results is a change of variable formula known as Itô's lemma. Itô calculus is widely applied in various fields, but is perhaps best known for its use in mathematical finance.[90]
Iwasawa theory and the Main conjecture of Iwasawa theory
Initially created by Kenkichi Iwasawa, Iwasawa theory was originally developed as a Galois module theory of ideal class groups. The main conjecture of Iwasawa theory is a deep relationship between p-adic L-functions and ideal class groups of cyclotomic fields, proved by Iwasawa (1969) for primes satisfying the Kummer–Vandiver conjecture and proved for all primes by Mazur and Wiles (1984).[91]


Automatic power loom
Sakichi Toyoda invented numerous weaving devices. His most famous invention was the automatic power loom in which he implemented the principle of Jidoka (autonomation or autonomous automation). It was the 1924 Toyoda Automatic Loom, Type G, a completely automatic high-speed loom featuring the ability to change shuttles without stopping and dozens of other innovations. At the time it was the world's most advanced loom, delivering a dramatic improvement in quality and a twenty-fold increase in productivity.[92]
Japanese typewriter
The first typewriter to be based on the Japanese writing system was invented by Kyota Sugimoto in 1929.[93]
MKM steel
MKM steel, an alloy containing nickel and aluminum, was developed in 1931 by the Japanese metallurgist Tokuhichi Mishima.[94]
KS steel
Magnetic resistant steel that is three times more resistant than tungsten steel, invented by Kotaro Honda.[95]
The second man-made fiber to be invented, after nylon. It was first developed by Ichiro Sakurada, H. Kawakami, and Korean scientist Ri Sung-gi at the Takatsuki chemical research center in 1939 in Japan.[96][97]
Airsoft originated in Japan, then spread to Hong Kong and China in the late 1970s.[98] The inventor of the first airsoft gun is Tanio Kobayashi.
Tactile paving
The original tactile paving was developed by Seiichi Miyake in 1965.[99] The paving was first introduced in a street in Okayama city, Japan, in 1967. Its use gradually spread in Japan and then around the world.
Jōmon Pottery
The Jōmon Pottery (縄文式土器 Jōmon-shiki Doki?) is a type of ancient pottery which was made during the Jōmon period in Japan. The term "Jōmon" (縄文) means "rope-patterned" in Japanese, describing the patterns that are pressed into the clay. The pottery vessels crafted in Ancient Japan during the Jōmon period are generally accepted to be the oldest pottery in Japan. Bits of pottery discovered in a cave in the northwest coast of modern day Kyushu date back to as far as 12,700 BCE in radiometric dating tests.[100] It is believed by many that Jōmon pottery was probably made even earlier than this date. However, due to ambiguity and multiple sources claiming different dates based on different dating techniques, it is difficult to say for sure how far back Jōmon Pottery was made. Some sources claim archaeological discoveries as far back as the 14th millennium BCE.[101]

Audio technology[edit]

Compact Disc player
Sony released the world's first CD Player, called the CDP-101,[102] in 1982, utilising a slide-out tray design for the Compact Disc.
Physical modelling synthesis
The first commercially available physical modelling synthesizer was Yamaha's VL-1 in 1994.[103]
Commercial digital recording
Commercial digital recording was pioneered in Japan by NHK and Nippon Columbia, also known as Denon, in the 1960s. The first commercial digital recordings were released in 1971.[104]
There are various disputes about who first invented the name karaoke (a Japanese word meaning "empty orchestra"). One claim is that the karaoke styled machine was invented by Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue[105] in Kobe, Japan, in 1971.[106][107]
Portable CD player
Sony's Discman, released in 1984, was the first portable CD player.[108]
Perpendicular recording
Perpendicular recording was first demonstrated in the late nineteenth century by Danish scientist Valdemar Poulsen, who was also the first person to demonstrate that sound could be recorded magnetically. There weren’t many advances in perpendicular recording until 1976 when Dr. Shun-ichi Iwasaki (president of the Tohoku Institute of Technology in Japan) verified the distinct density advantages in perpendicular recording. Then in 1978, Dr. T. Fujiwara began an intensive research and development program at the Toshiba Corporation that eventually resulted in the perfection of floppy disk media optimized for perpendicular recording and the first commercially available magnetic storage devices using the technique.[109]
Digital audio tape recorder
Heitaro Nakajima resigned from his post as head of NHK's Technical Research Laboratories and joined Sony. Four years earlier at NHK, Nakajima had commenced work on the digitization of sound and within two years had developed the first digital audio tape recorder[110]
Vowel-Consonant synthesis
A type of hybrid Digital-analogue synthesis first employed by the early Casiotone keyboards in the early 1980s.


Pocket calculator
The first portable calculators appeared in Japan in 1970, and were soon marketed around the world. These included the Sanyo ICC-0081 "Mini Calculator", the Canon Pocketronic, and the Sharp QT-8B "micro Compet". Sharp put in great efforts in size and power reduction and introduced in January 1971 the Sharp EL-8, also marketed as the Facit 1111, which was close to being a pocket calculator. It weighed about one pound, had a vacuum fluorescent display, and rechargeable NiCad batteries. The first truly pocket-sized electronic calculator was the Busicom LE-120A "HANDY", which was marketed early in 1971.[111]


Digital single-lens reflex camera
On August 25, 1981 Sony unveiled a prototype of the first still video camera, the Sony Mavica. This camera was an analog electronic camera that featured interchangeable lenses and a SLR viewfinder. At photokina in 1986, Nikon revealed a prototype analog electronic still SLR camera, the Nikon SVC, the first digital SLR. The prototype body shared many features with the N8008.[112]
In 1967, Sony unveiled the first self-contained video tape analog recording system that was portable.[113]


Main article: Chindōgu

Chindogu is the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that, on the face of it, seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem. However, Chindogu has a distinctive feature: anyone actually attempting to use one of these inventions would find that it causes so many new problems, or such significant social embarrassment, that effectively it has no utility whatsoever. Thus, Chindōgu are sometimes described as "unuseless" – that is, they cannot be regarded as 'useless' in an absolute sense, since they do actually solve a problem; however, in practical terms, they cannot positively be called "useful." The term "Chindogu" was coined by Kenji Kawakami.

Domestic appliances[edit]

Electric rice cooker
Invented by designers at the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation in the late 1940s.[114]
An automatic cooking device, invented by Mamoru Imura and patented in 2007.[115][116]


Sony U-matic cassette recorder tape
Glass integrated circuit
Shunpei Yamazaki invented an integrated circuit made entirely from glass and with an 8-bit central processing unit.[117]
Plastic central processing unit
Shunpei Yamazaki invented a central processing unit made entirely from plastic.[117]
Videocassette recorder
The first machines (the VP-1100 videocassette player and the VO-1700 videocassette recorder) to use the first videocassette format, U-matic, were introduced by Sony in 1971.[118]
Radio-controlled wheel transmitter
Futaba introduced the FP-T2F in 1974 that was the first to utilize a steering wheel onto a box transmitter.[119] KO Propo introduced the EX-1 in 1981 that integrated a wheel with a pistol grip with its trigger acting as the throttle. This became one of the two types of radio controlled transmitters currently for surface use.[120][121]

Game controllers[edit]

In 1982, Nintendo's Gunpei Yokoi elaborated on the idea of a circular pad, shrinking it and altering the points into the familiar modern "cross" design for control of on-screen characters in their Donkey Kong handheld game. It came to be known as the "D-pad".[122] The design proved to be popular for subsequent Game & Watch titles. This particular design was patented. In 1984, the Japanese company Epoch created a handheld game system called the Epoch Game Pocket Computer. It featured a D-pad, but it was not popular for its time and soon faded. Initially intended to be a compact controller for the Game & Watch handheld games alongside the prior non-connected style pad, Nintendo realized that Gunpei's design would also be appropriate for regular consoles, and Nintendo made the D-pad the standard directional control for the hugely successful Nintendo Entertainment System under the name "+Control Pad".
Motion-sensing controller
Invented by Nintendo for the Wii, the Wii Remote is the first controller with motion-sensing capability. It was a candidate for Time's Best Invention of 2006.[123]


DER-01, a Japanese actroid (an android intended to be very visually similar to humans)
The world's first android, DER 01, was developed by a Japanese research group, The Intelligent Robotics Lab, directed by Hiroshi Ishiguro at Osaka University, and Kokoro Co., Ltd. The Actroid is a humanoid robot with strong visual human-likeness developed by Osaka University and manufactured by Kokoro Company Ltd. (the animatronics division of Sanrio). It was first unveiled at the 2003 International Robot Exposition in Tokyo, Japan. The Actroid woman is a pioneer example of a real machine similar to imagined machines called by the science fiction terms android or gynoid, so far used only for fictional robots. It can mimic such lifelike functions as blinking, speaking, and breathing. The "Repliee" models are interactive robots with the ability to recognise and process speech and respond in kind.[124][125][126]
Karakuri puppet
Karakuri puppets (からくり人形 karakuri ningyō?) are traditional Japanese mechanized puppets or automata, originally made from the 17th century to 19th century. The word karakuri means "mechanisms" or "trick".[127] The dolls' gestures provided a form of entertainment. Three main types of karakuri exist. Butai karakuri (舞台からくり?, stage karakuri) were used in theatre. Zashiki karakuri (座敷からくり?, tatami room karakuri) were small and used in homes. Dashi karakuri (山車からくり?, festival car karakuri) were used in religious festivals, where the puppets were used to perform reenactments of traditional myths and legends.
Ninja robot
Invented by Shigeo Hirose, it is capable of climbing buildings and a seven-ton robot capable of climbing mountainous slopes with the aim of installing bolts in the ground so as to prevent landslides.[128]
Robotic exoskeleton for motion support (medicine)
The first HAL prototype was proposed by Yoshiyuki Sankai, a professor at Tsukuba University.[129] Fascinated with robots since he was in the third grade, Sankai had striven to make a robotic suit in order “to support humans.” In 1989, after receiving his Ph.D. in robotics, he began the development of HAL. Sankai spent three years, from 1990 to 1993, mapping out the neurons that govern leg movement. It took him and his team an additional four years to make a prototype of the hardware.[130]

Storage technology[edit]

Betamax (top) and a VHS (bottom) tapes were respectively created by Japanese companies Sony and JVC.
Blu-ray Disc
After Shuji Nakamura's invention of practical blue laser diodes,[131] Sony started two projects applying the new diodes: UDO (Ultra Density Optical) and DVR Blue (together with Pioneer), a format of rewritable discs which would eventually become the Blu-ray Disc.[132]
Compact Disc (also Netherlands company Philips)
The compact disc was jointly developed by Philips (Joop Sinjou) and Sony (Toshitada Doi). Sony first publicly demonstrated an optical digital audio disc in September 1976. In September 1978, they demonstrated an optical digital audio disc with a 150 minute playing time, and with specifications of 44,056 Hz sampling rate, 16-bit linear resolution, cross-interleaved error correction code, that were similar to those of the Compact Disc they introduced in 1982.[133]
Blue laser
In 1992 Japanese inventor Shuji Nakamura invented the first efficient blue LED.[134]
Digital video disc (also Netherlands company Philips)
The DVD, first developed in 1995, resulted from a cooperation between three Japanese companies (Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic) and one Dutch company (Philips).
Flash memory
Flash memory (both NOR and NAND types) was invented by Dr. Fujio Masuoka while working for Toshiba c. 1980.[135][136]
Betamax was an analog videocassette magnetic tape marketed to consumers released by Sony on May 10, 1975.[137]
VHS (Video Home System)
The VHS was invented in 1973 by Yuma Shiraishi and Shizuo Takano who worked for JVC.[138]


A Seiko quartz wristwatch using the chronograph function (movement 7T92).
Myriad year clock
The Myriad year clock (万年自鳴鐘 Mannen Jimeishou, lit. Ten-Thousand Year Self-ringing Bell), was a universal clock designed by the Japanese inventor Hisashige Tanaka in 1851. It belongs to the category of Japanese clocks called Wadokei.[139]
Quartz wristwatch
The world's first quartz wristwatch was revealed in 1967: the prototype of the Astron revealed by Seiko in Japan, where it was in development since 1958. It was eventually released to the public in 1969.[140]
Automatic quartz
The first watch to combine self-winding with a crystal oscillator for timekeeping was unveiled by Seiko in 1986.[141]


A bullet train in Tokyo, 1967
Bullet train
The world's first high volume capable (initially 12 car maximum) "high-speed train" was Japan's Tōkaidō Shinkansen, that officially opened in October 1964, with construction commencing in April 1959.[142] The 0 Series Shinkansen, built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, achieved maximum passenger service speeds of 210 km/h (130 mph) on the TokyoNagoyaKyotoOsaka route, with earlier test runs hitting top speeds in 1963 at 256 km/h.[142]
Electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission
In early 1987, Subaru launched the Justy in Tokyo with an electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT) developed by Fuji Heavy Industries, which owns Subaru.[143]
Hydrogen car
In 2014, Toyota launched the first production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Toyota Mirai.[144] The Mirai has a range of 312 miles (502km) and takes about five minutes to refuel. The initial sale price was roughly 7 million yen ($69,000).
Kei car
A category of small automobiles, including passenger cars, vans, and pickup trucks. They are designed to exploit local tax and insurance relaxations, and in more rural areas are exempted from the requirement to certify that adequate parking is available for the vehicle.[145][146]

Visual display units[edit]

Flat panel display
The first flat-panel displays were the flat CRTs[147][148] used by Sony in their Watchman series (the FD-210 was introduced in 1982). One of the last flat-CRT models was the FD-120A.


Fire balloon
A fire balloon, or balloon bomb, was an experimental weapon launched by Japan from 1944 to 1945, during World War II.[149]
The katana originated in the Muromachi period (1392–1573) as a result of changing battle conditions requiring faster response times. The katana facilitated this by being worn with the blade facing up, which allowed the samurai to draw their blade and slash at their enemy in a single motion. Previously, the curved sword of the samurai was worn with the blade facing down. The ability to draw and cut in one motion also became increasingly useful in the daily life of the samurai.[150]
The shuriken was invented during the Gosannen War as a concealed weapon, primarily for the purpose of distracting a target.[151]

Wireless transmission[edit]

Yagi antenna
The Yagi-Uda antenna was invented in 1926 by Shintaro Uda of Tohoku Imperial University, Sendai, Japan, with the collaboration of Hidetsugu Yagi, also of Tohoku Imperial University. Yagi published the first English-language reference on the antenna in a 1928 survey article on short wave research in Japan and it came to be associated with his name. However, Yagi always acknowledged Uda's principal contribution to the design, and the proper name for the antenna is, as above, the Yagi-Uda antenna (or array).[152]

Writing implementations[edit]

Rollerball pen
The first rollerball pen was invented in 1963 by the Japanese company Ohto.[153]
Gel pen
The gel pen was invented in 1984 by Sakura.[154]


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See also[edit]