The new arrival in Tokyo will be surprised by the trains. We don’t mean how efficient the transport system or its modest fares. Nor that the trains run more or less always on time. Or even the notorious rush hour crush.
No, we mean the sleeping.
People seem to have an innate ability to doze off wherever they are: riding a train, on a park bench, at their desk… And if it’s the former, they also seem to have an inherent faculty that tells them to wake up in time for their stop.
This penchant for napping recently inspired a great marketing campaign for a real estate service, and also means you get lots of great “sleeping” products like these pillows.
There was a lot of online buzz in late 2013 about the Ostrich Pillow, a portable pillow for public napping. While developed overseas, the designer was partly Japanese.
Here are some great local examples.
The King Eye Mask is a very smart-looking face pillow that covers your eyes but also gives you support behind, so you don’t get a crick in your neck.
The Dictionary Desk Pillow, though, is more unusual. It is designed for use at a desk or table, and takes the classic over-worked student trope to the max: it’s a “book” that functions as a pillow. A clever way to fool your boss or teacher!
If books are not your thing, how about a woman’s lap? Yes, the Hizamakura Lap Pillow Mini Skirt is more risque and is clearly playing on certain male fantasies.
Stepping back within the boundaries of respectability now, the Igloo Dome Pillow is a mini “tent” that gives you privacy and silence for your nap. Although it requires more space than a wearable eye pillow or mask, it is surprisingly versatile.
The My Dome Pal Travel Sleeping Hood is halfway between the Igloo Dome and a more conventional sleeping mask. It looks rather refined and means you don’t have to worry about other passengers looking at you when you are dozing off on the plane or train.
Talking of wearable items, here are two more extreme examples.
The King Jim Wearable Futon Air Mat proved a big hit when it came out. Part emergency gear, part sleepover set for earnest employees, King Jim’s futon is snug and compact when not in use, and means you walk around with your sleeping bag “on”.
In a similar vein, the Doppelganger Outdoors Wearable Sleeping Bag is a coat-suit ideal for camping.
Finally, two more funny ones.
The Bibilab Twintails Pillow is perhaps the most unusual pillow design we’ve seen in a while, though it is incredibly practical since it can be twisted into all sorts of positions and two people can even use it at once.
Lastly, the Hi-Tech Snore Stopper Pillow is an oldie but a classic. The foam pillow is designed for maximum comfort but uses an audio sensor to detect snoring. It then responds with a light vibration that helps reduce snoring. And the external audio jack also allows you to record the offending snores and monitor the pillow’s effectiveness — or collect undeniable proof of the disruptive habit.
Of course, Japan’s fondness for sleeping doesn’t only inspire products. The service industry is also here to assist you get some shuteye. Take Qusca, a women-only sleeping cafe in Tokyo, or the more dubious Soine-ya, a place for snuggling up with cute girls.