Is it necessary to have home appliances that celebrate birthdays? Why “Japanese Home Appliances” have become Galapagosized due to an excess of “value-added functions | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Is it necessary to have home appliances that celebrate birthdays? Why “Japanese Home Appliances” have become Galapagosized due to an excess of “value-added functions

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The “chatter” from the air conditioner is so loud…”

The other day, my mother, who had recently purchased a new air conditioner, called to complain that she could not hear the TV because the air conditioner was talking too loudly. It would be a simple matter to change the setting to one that does not talk, but that is difficult for elderly people.

The air conditioner tells us to hang out the futon to dry because the weather is nice, or that it is time to open the windows to change the air. Refrigerators and pots and pans that learn on their own and suggest menu items. Are these high-end, high-performance home appliances causing consumers to suffer in Japan’s aging population?

We asked Tetsuto Fujiyama, a home appliance writer, and Yoko Hirota, a writer living in Los Angeles, about the reality of Japanese home appliances that have gone astray and the reality of home appliances from overseas.

Chinese tourists bought rice cookers because only Japanese-made rice cookers can cook rice so deliciously. Maybe they should be proud of that before becoming Galapagos (Photo: Image/PHOTO: AFLO)

Japan is proud of its “energy-saving performance,” which it boasts to the world! Yet, Japanese-made home appliances are not distributed overseas.

–Mr. Hirota, it has been 8 years since you came to the U.S. Are Japanese home appliances popular there as well?

Hirota: Most of them are made in Korea and China, and I almost never see Japanese-made products. Japanese manufacturers always come up with new features that exceed consumer expectations with each new version, such as refrigerators that can maintain freshness without plastic wrap or ovens that bake in water, so I would prefer to buy Japanese-made appliances if possible.

Fujiyama: Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, energy-saving performance has advanced by leaps and bounds, and they are ahead of the rest of the world.

–In Japan, there are various home appliances that talk to you, such as pots and pans that suggest menus, but what about overseas manufacturers?

Hirota: There are none. When digital functions are added, it seems like a hassle to fix them with a single screw (laughs).

Fujiyama: When people who are good cooks buy talking pots and pans, they usually get tired of them after a month and switch to manual mode (laughs). Suggested pots and pans offer a dinner solution service with a delivery company, so it seems that people who are not good cooks or busy people are buying time.

-Home appliances are also becoming more polarized.

It will be 40 years before “smart appliances” become friendly to the elderly!

Hirota:Only in Japan do they say “laundry index” in the weather forecast. Maybe that is reflected in home appliances. It seems a bit excessive.

Fujiyama: Japan is a country with a “culture of hospitality” that provides customers with the level of service they demand, and the recent boom in IoT home appliances may have taken advantage of this.

For example, Sharp’s concept was to “give virtual personalities to home appliances so that they can be operated as if they were friends. So they all talk a lot.

They even congratulate me on my birthday, so I have them set to the voice of Pretty Cure, because I like anime (laughs). (Laughs.) The phone also talks a lot, but it automatically learns the station where you get off the train and tells you so that you don’t miss your train ride, which is very convenient.

Hirota:If you connect Google or Amazon to your home appliances, all your personal information, such as when you are at home and what you bought, will be revealed, so some people dare not connect them.

Fujiyama: LINE used to make smart speakers, but they have stopped now.

–I think that smart home appliances are friendly to everyone.

Fujiyama: They are not friendly to the elderly at all, because they require the use of a smartphone. I think IoT home appliances will be friendly to everyone when young people age in the future and smartphones and computers become commonplace for the elderly as well. Right now, we are waiting for the right time.

Why “adding a little bit of new functionality” is something I can’t stop doing.

Hirota: In the U.S., renting a house comes with home appliances, so the chance to buy one for oneself is about one-fifth of what it is in Japan. Perhaps because of the low turnover rate of products, people don’t demand high functionality, and their love of home appliances may be low. They are satisfied as long as they are cool and work well, so manufacturers sell existing products for a long time and do not renew them frequently.

Fujiyama: The reason why Japanese manufacturers change the models of their home appliances once or twice a year is because the prices collapse. Because of the unique Japanese dealer system, when a dealer offers a discount, the manufacturer pays to compensate for the loss of the discounted price. This increases the margin to be paid to the distributor, so it is better to release a new product. Overseas manufacturers have a different sales model than in Japan, so once they make a vacuum cleaner, they don’t change the model for 5 or 10 years.

This is a dryer lined up at an appliance store in New York. Quite a degree of simplicity… (PHOTO: AFRO)

–If you innovate every time you release a new product, won’t you reach the ceiling someday?

Fujiyama: That is now. For more than 70 years now, we have been unable to release a new product without adding a little new functionality, so we have to ask, “Why don’t we do that next year?” We have no choice but to run with the IoT.

–What a “who benefits” system!

Fujiyama: Panasonic saw this as a problem, and last year they instituted a designated price purchase system for dryers and drum-type washing machines. But it is a balance of power between dealers and manufacturers. The products I just mentioned are overwhelmingly strong, so they can say to dealers, “Please sell at this price,” but only Panasonic, which is currently strong as a manufacturer, can do that. That is the structure that exists in Japan.

How was it? I feel like I have heard something outrageous. In the global market, Japanese home appliances are completely outpaced by Samsung and LG. But Japanese products are energy-efficient, less likely to break, and have superior functions.

With the yen’s depreciation, more and more manufacturers are returning to the domestic market, and more and more manufacturers are bringing their factories back to Japan, one would think that if they sold low-priced, simple products that were separate from the “functional, talkative, meddlesome line,” the elderly would be happy and the global market would expand, but it’s not that simple, is it? But it’s not that simple….

Tetsuto Fujiyama is a consumer electronics writer who introduces consumer electronics in magazines and on the web, including “Home Appliance Watch. In addition to writing, he also works as an electronic circuit and mechanical designer and programmer. He is also active on TV, mainly in information programs, including six appearances on the variety show “Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai (The World Matsuko Doesn’t Know).

Yoko Hirota is an editorial writer and health coach living in Los Angeles. She has been a magazine editor for over 15 years.’ She moved to the U.S. in 2003 and specializes in trend articles on American diet food, exercise, and other topics that are likely to become popular in Japan.

The rice cooker is fully automatic, from weighing rice and water to cooking rice, and can be operated with a smartphone when away from home… A rice cooker with “automatic weighing and remote rice cooking” function was released by Panasonic in July (from Panasonic’s press release).
  • Interview and text Chimasa Ide

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