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Coolness from Japan Home Show

by Scott Mason last modified Feb 28, 2014 01:38 PM
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Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Scott Mason at November 17. 2005


I'm new to this forum.

I went up to Tokyo for the home show last week, then spent
another day wandering around Tokyo. I ended up stumbling on
the INAX (bath) showroom and then visited the YKK showroom

I was gratified to see some totally new things that really
impressed me.

1. NUVA vacuum powered elevator riding in polycarbonate
tube--affordable, small space, no elevator pit, fantastic.
($40K) I tried it out on the show floor:

This is not a wheelchair sized unit, but
that is for the future, they say. Food for thought.

2. INAX thermo-tile for bathroom floor, warm to the touch.
($10 sf)

3. At YKK showroom I saw some good and bad. I felt their
bifolding door was not that great, for several reasons.
OTOH, I found a new product, a wide, three panel patio
door for half the cost. Very slick product. I am starting
to go back to the idea of sourcing windows in Japan. (
$2500 for 9 ft span). Click on the top left thumbnail:

I also like their new modern-look Concord series sliding
front doors, their glass-block slit window units, and
their deep inset windows, which create a shadow line on
the exterior.

4. However if I were going to import my bifolding doors, I
might like to get Solarlux (if I can afford them). These
Solarlux products had the most beautiful fit and finish of
any windows I've seen. They really put to shame the various
US window maker products in surrounding booths from the
likes of Pella, Andersen et al.

5. Some incredibly beautiful elliptical curves in bathtub
from a Chinese maker, BRAVAT. ($3000) A tad pricey
but I donユt care what it costs, I want it:

6. Demonstration of Innoinno's epochmaking PSF (Pendant
Style Fan) a dinner table pendant light that sucks up
smoke from grilling at the table. Again, I want this so bad I
almost don't care what it costs. ($1500)

7. Aluminum truss stairway with glass treads, just as good
in real life as it looks (just as expensive, too $15K)

8. OSB plank flooring from German maker Kronoply ($2sf).
Dunno if I want to use this, but it looks cool and they
say it works as flooring (suggested for lofts, playrooms
and closets, etc.)

9. My favorite small Japanese wooden window maker, Madoka,
which makes some of the most beautiful wooden windows out
of exotic woods, has a spectacular new bifolding door ($4500).
Cheaper than an aluminum one from one of the big makers.

All in all, it was amazing how may Chinese exhibitors there were
at the show, and also their sophistication. At the same time,
the Americans have almost retreated, it seems. As was to be
expected, there were a lot of cool Japanese gadgets.

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by JB at November 17. 2005

Thanks for sharing!
Those are some great things that we would otherwise never catch wind of in most American trade publications!

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Scott Mason at November 17. 2005

Yeah, no doubt. Although some of the things are from other places than Japan.

Somebody pointed out that you could not deploy that glass staircase in the US because of the open risers. True. The Japanese regs are a lot less stringent in many areas--or maybe they are just 40 years behind. Neutra et al would be right at home.

That staircase is just one of dozens of similar items on the market here these days. Suddenly, in the past couple of years, there has been a huge modernism boom, it's no longer just an upper class phenomenon. Lots of sub-$200k modern houses being built.

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Jeff Jasper at November 18. 2005

When I go to China about 80% of what is being sold (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean goods) is modern, much of it very high quality, and most of much cheaper than comparable items here.

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Scott Mason at November 18. 2005

The way the Chinese have taken over the high value added end of the building products industry is almost unbelievable. The Chinese filled about half the booths in the show. Back in the year 2000, US manufacturers had 60% of the Japanese flooring market, but five years later the Chinese have taken almost all that market share and the Americans are almost squeezed out.

The Chinese have become so dominant that even the Germans were trying to undercut them on price, incredibly, as I saw one booth that was advertizing a side by side comparison of German and Chinese white oak flooring, with the German being 30% cheaper. There must be a big long German word to describe this phenomenon.

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Jeff Jasper at November 20. 2005

Yeah, it is actually funny but when we priced flooring, we could get it cheaper for decent quality stuff in the US than in China too.

Japanese has become very popular in China so it is very cool to have all wood spa like bathrooms with Japanese soaking tubs now. Good designs are imported from Japan but there are a lot of good quality Chinese knock-offs, but they are not much cheaper than the imports.

Faucets, Toilets, steam-showers, furniture, and cabinets are cheaper in China though.

Cars in China though are about 2 to 3 times as expensive as in the US. Local built cars are becoming cheaper we we still have it much better when it comes to buying cars. There is no such thing as going for a test drive either. You buy it and then wait months for it to be imported in.

Housing in even expensive cities like shanghai is much cheaper than the US. Average housing is about 1/8 what the average US home costs. Although China is getting suburbs with McMansion homes designed from copying American suburban development that are more expensive, still about 1/2 to 1/4 what they would cost here though. It makes me sad every time I see them. They are the new status symbol so they are popping up like crazy. Good news is at least some new developments are going with a completely new approach and designing self sustaining and environmentally friendly communities, but you can expect them to be expensive to live in by Chinese standards.

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by uncleho at November 20. 2005

HOW does one go about IMPORTING these products... let alone... FINDING the products?

I guess you business travellers have a fringe benefit we others don't? :(

And then tarriffs and duties... and codes for these products??? How do they weather the month long, slow boat shipping in salt-water air of a container hull?

Any comments?

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Scott Mason at November 21. 2005

Importing on your own is tough. Although a lot of Japanese individuals import container loads of stuff from Canada and US. I suppose the reverse is possible, after all people do import other JDM goods such as laptops, PDAs, etc. Getting the information and the contacts is the hard part.

I think there are probably some areas where one could get into the importing business for some of this modern stuff. For instance YKK's new line of modern architecturals, their cool grey aluminum windows. For such things as bifolds or sliding doors, their products have better prices and features than the ones on the US market. For instance, flush threshholds.

Another one would be Muji, which I believe is big in Europe but not in the States--is that right? The brand of no-brand. In addition to their cool zen furnishings, Muji is now making cool prefab modern houses and outfitting them completely. Check out this Muji prefab:

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Ed at November 21. 2005

I find it interesting that these materials can be so much cheaper/better in Japan, all things considered. However, it's difficult getting the specs, pricing, dimensions, engineering, etc. for this stuff locally, let alone from the other side of the world!

After doing lots and lots of investigation and research I have decided to use a lot of [url href=]YKK[/url] components on my [url href=]house[/url] - curtain wall, sliding doors and a couple of windows- all in anodized aluminum. The stuff is not cheap!! In fact, I explored the possibility of getting all commercial windows from them, but they are about 40-50% more expensive than high-end residential. However, for the curtain wall and sliders, I really felt like I had no choice but to go with commercial products. They are custom sized, very durable, have great sightlines, and are very versatile. Plus they don't have all that icky wood cladding that the Home Depot offerings have. Even though I am aghast at the prices, I feel like I have to bite the bullet and just do it. Although I did not know it at the outset, now I know: the cost of building modern residential is the cost of building commercial.

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Scott Mason at November 21. 2005

Well, actually, you can get all the info over the Net--if you can read Japanese! Some things are cheaper, and some have cooler features, not sure about better. Is a Lexus better than a Mercedes?

I think you must be talking about YKK commercial products, which are distributed in the US. Their JDM products are still not, I think. However, I was surprised to find that Tostem, another huge Japanese aluminum window maker, is now distributing some products there. I don't like their designs quite as well as YKKs, but they do make a decent product with all the nifty features, such as integral screen on their bifolding doors.

Now, as for YKK's residential products, they have several grades, but it seems that the top grade will run you a minimum of around $1500 per hole, which is a bit pricey for an aluminum window (and that is with glass that is nothing fancy). Their bottom-of-the line stuff is gong to go for $300 per hole, but the sash is not insulated at all.

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Jeff Jasper at November 22. 2005

For our stuff from China, it pays to have contacts over there and go to trade shows. Only big thing we brought over was our cabinets. My wife is in international trade though so she handled all the shipping by container overseas.

Our cabinets just arrived today, and two of the cardboard boxes were badly damaged. Thankfully these things are built like tanks and I couldn't find a single scratch! Big swipe of relief across my brow on that one. If I had to do again I would have them double pack everything.

I agree there is a huge business opportunity here for someone highly motivated and detail oriented. It is a LOT of work. Finding good companies, making the contacts, cutting deals, arrange for shipping, clearing customs, final mile shipping and then tipping the driver to help you lug 1500lbs of boxes into your house :)

For cabinets it took a lot of measuring and remeasuring to make sure everything was perfect, converting that all into metric CAD files (AutoCAD DWG), working out the design, and then the rest was a lot of calls and paperwork for shipping. Shipping companies will clear customs for you on both end for an extra fee.

I suggest a combo vacation/business trip. Go enjoy the sites and do the touristy stuff, but plan it during a big home expo and take a side trip to check out the good and find companies you like. They should have english translators at the expo for hire.

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Scott Mason at November 30. 2005

Looks like the Chinese prices are better than my first impression...

As for the curvaceous bathtub $3000 bathtub from Chinese maker Bravat, I hope I don't reveal myself as being utterly downmarket by saying that I think $3000 is a lot for a bathtub, and I guess I might have known that it must be a knockoff of a much more expensive item from Italy--a $10,000 Studio Thun Lavasca Mini bathtub, as below.

compare to:

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Kale at November 30. 2005

Very interesting thread! I love the OP's detailed review of the home show. Wish I was there!

I collect antique Ming style furniture although I also love modernism. They really are not incompatible.

To see how this furniture is collected and refinished for the market, I made a trip to Zhuhai, guangdong (an hour by boat from Hongkong) to visit my antiques dealer.
You have to see this town to believe it. Somewhat of a futuristic glass and steel metropolis! Wide tree lined streets, open spaces, parks, glass buildings. A few years ago this was all farmland. the chinese govt has created a business export zone to encourage chinese businesses to open export houses in this area.The amount of manufacturing and exporting that goes on is staggering. In fact I saw many westerners taking the boat to the mainland to play golf for the day! it is cheaper and better that in HK.

LA seemed like an old tired city after returning from HK and Zhuhai :)

As I remodel my home with modern accents, I shop for fixtures on ebay. I bought a shower panel from a chinese importer and picked it up at a warehouse in LA. That too was staggering. Imagine a homedepot sized building filled with faucets, fixtures, vanities, clothing, toys, just about everything. But for the address, I would not be able to identify the building, the signage was in Chinese too !!

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Scott Mason at December 01. 2005

Looks like the Chinese are going to be the ones to make modernist style affordable for the rest of us, at last.

Re: Coolness from Japan Home Show

Posted by Jeff Jasper at January 23. 2006

I found something kind of funny recently. Flooring imported from China and sold here in LA is cheaper than flooring bought right from the manufacturer in China. Of course here you have no warranty on it while there you get the standard 25 year surface and lifetime structural warranty. While bamboo is the biggest flooring import, a lot of other stuff is getting imported from China and sold through small local shops and online retailers.

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