If you noticed something isn’t quite right about the vending machine above, don’t worry, you don’t need to check your eyesight. Yes, the right-most vending machine does look particularly fishy – wait a minute: is that a person wearing a vending machine suit? Has Halloween come to Japan in a weird manifestation?
In what appears to be stranger than fiction, New York Times carried an article with the title ‘Fearing Crime, Japanese wear the Hiding Place‘.
Deftly, Ms. Tsukioka, a 29-year-old experimental fashion designer, lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers — by disguising herself as a vending machine.
I’m sure the headline was really just a sensationalist garb – it attempts to suggest that this is already a mainstream practice rather than simply a concept or a chindogu by a designer in Japan. Check how it transforms:
There are also other manifestations – a bag that transforms into a manhole cover so that people would walk past and not notice it; another bag for children that attempts to turn the child into an unsuspecting fire hydrant. These concepts are certainly amusing, but there is a greater cultural spirit and meaning behind:
But the devices’ creators also argue that Japan’s ideas about crime prevention are a product of deeper cultural differences. While Americans want to protect themselves from criminals, or even strike back, the creators say many Japanese favor camouflage and deception, reflecting a culture that abhors self-assertion, even in self-defense.
Perhaps it is this culture of invention-tolerance, no matter how idiosyncratic or bizarre, that facilitated Japan’s contribution to the world’s other (arguably more useful) innovations and inventions. It’s again of those moments – ‘it could only be Japan!’.