Ultrafabrics, the progressive brand based on a hybrid of American and Japanese expertise, whose performance fabrics combine master-craftsmanship with pioneering technology, has recently opened its first international showroom – on Clerkenwell’s Northburgh Street – so, to mark the move, we asked them to tell us some things we didn’t know about one half of their heritage – the land of the rising sun. They didn’t let us down.
1. Forget the turkey – the Japanese celebrate Christmas Day with KFC
To anyone from outside of Japan, the idea of going to KFC on the 25th might seem a little unusual but it’s estimated that 3.6 million Japanese families enjoy the Colonel’s chicken on Christmas Day. The craze started in 1970, when Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country, thought up the idea of the ‘party barrel’, a substitute for anyone missing turkey on Christmas and looking for a big, fried substitute served in a bucket. Whatever you think of it, it worked – and the tradition is now enjoyed by millions.
2. Vending machines are everywhere
Good: for convenience – a quick way to get pretty much any product you could ask for without having to go through a long winded customer service experience. Bad: for when robots eventually rise up against humanity and the Japanese have to fight off an army of militarised coffee machines. At just over five million nationally, averaging out to about one vending machine per 23 people, it’s the highest density in the world. What’s more, they sell pretty much everything: beer, coffee, umbrellas, flowers, canned bread. Whatever it is you need, there is probably a vending machine for it.
3. Arts and Crafts are big news
The Japanese have a long history of artisan craftsmanship, a tradition that has endured the centuries and is still very much at the heart of Japanese manufacturing today. At Ultrafabrics’ mill, just outside Tokyo, these principles define the proprietary Takumi technology inherent in the creation of Ultrafabrics’ polyurethane materials.
4. Most Japanese homes are without central heating
Whilst they’re leading the world in vending machine technology, Japanese homes are surprisingly low-tech when it comes to dealing with the winter. And it’s not as if Japan enjoys warm winter months – central and northern regions of the country are no strangers to snowfall. So, instead of racking up a huge gas bill and destroying what little we have left of our planet in the process, the Japanese use the more traditional methods of layering up and eating warm and stodgy foods.
5. Capsule hotels – because who needs a whole room or a toilet or personal space?
Originally intended for business people who missed their last train home and needed just a bed to stay. Now, they’ve moved beyond this and are used by professionals and tourists alike. Given their small size and limited features, the Pod Hotels are modest in price, costing around ¥2000-4000 (£14-£28) per night. A simple and efficient option – not for the claustrophobic however.
6. Raised floors tell you when to take off your shoes off
The custom of removing shoes before entering the house is believed to go back over 1,000 years to the era of elevated floor structures. At the entrance to a home in Japan, the floor will usually be raised about 6 inches, indicating it’s time to take your shoes off and put on slippers.
7. Multi-storey car parks with a difference
Much like a lot of things in Japan, they have managed to make car parking easier, quicker and more efficient with the Rotary Parking System. An engineering marvel: simply drive into the parking complex, put your handbrake on and get out – machines will take your car and pop it in a space for you. Remember this when you are arguing with whoever is in the passenger seat, telling them how you would be able to parallel park if they would just let you think for a minute.