5 must-have Japanese kitchen appliances for those short on time

5 must-have Japanese kitchen appliances for those short on time

by Miyuki Yajima
Live Japan

In the era of COVID-19, more and more people in Japan are cooking at home, making the demand for high-quality and innovative cookware higher than ever before.

Answering this call is Thanko, who has become increasingly well-known for its huge range of unique, time-saving goods specializing in things like home-cooked yakitori and cup ramen makers. Focusing on particular, minute needs with a Japanese sense of attention to detail, Thanko products have become a hit both domestically and overseas.

We visited Thanko to discover the secret behind their development and to get some recommendations on popular, must-see products! If your kitchen needs a sprucing up, read on to discover what Thanko has on offer!

What Kind of Company is Thanko?

With a mission of “fun and useful products,” Thanko aims to create, manufacture, and sell unique and original home appliances.

Thanko Rare-mono Shop Akihabara Main Store

Thanko originally focused on selling computer-related equipment, software, and accessories. In 2003, they began importing overseas products adapted for Japan before starting their own company-made original brand in 2005.

Being a brick and mortar store, you can try out the products before purchasing.

Thanko first began offering electronic appliances in 2016 to convey its company vision to a wider audience. This has been to great success, with the advent of COVID-19 and the increase of people staying at home leading to a 250% increase in demand.

Our Representative From Thanko: Ekky (PR Manager)

Ekky is a distinctive individual known for his trademark orange shirt, bowtie, and overalls. Appearing in TV, magazines, online, and other forms of advertisements, Ekky dedicates all his power as PR manager to show the world the appeal of Thanko products.

The Method Behind New Thanko Ideas

Thanko seems to have a lot of new ideas and products we’ve never seen before?

“Thank you for saying that! Indeed, as our company mission is 'bringing fun and useful products to the world,' we strive to solve the simple yet frustrating problems that arise in everyday life. Taking another look at seemingly innocuous hindrances, we wonder whether we can omit wasted effort and make life a little more convenient. Under this concept, we design and sell our products to the world!”

How do you come up with ideas?

“Every week, all company employees create new ideas. From everyday questions to troublesome interactions, we have everyone share their problems and determine whether a current solution exists or a potential product could be made.”

“While the number of our originally developed products is increasing, we actually started the company to import and sell items from overseas. Rather than determining the demand for products in advance, we start by putting the product on sale first and seeing how it goes. After this, we research what additional demand is out there and craft an original improved product to meet these needs. In this sense, our products are born from the troubles of customers.”

Many companies found themselves in difficult circumstances due to COVID-19. However, it appears Thanko sales have continued to increase, especially in the last few years?

“Indeed, there’s been a continuous release of hit products, which, owing to our customers, have done exceptionally well. In particular, due to many staying home during the age of COVID-19, demand for home appliances like dishwashers, rice cookers, and more, has dramatically increased.”

“One of our biggest hits that continues to grow is our 'Neck Cooler,' which was released in 2015. Since its initial sale, we’ve added portable charging, increased its cooling functions, and more, gradually improving it with each passing year. Last year, it was revamped to be more compact and easy-to-use, which was an overwhelming success. No matter how many we make, it always seems to be sold out, and it now accounts for 40% of all sales.”

Is there a product type you plan to develop further?

“We’re always looking to deliver products that deal with seasonal troubles, along with creating more solutions to problems faced by individuals. These 'single-person' products, which aim to alleviate everyday troubles, are reasonably priced, simple, and instantly deliver on their purpose without any frills or fuss. Continuing onwards, we’d like to sell these kinds of products to a wider audience.”

5 Recommended Thanko Products
As of October 2021, Thanko boasts approximately 500 different products! We’ve selected five stand-out Thanko items and asked Ekky for the story behind their development.

  • Super-Fast Bento Box Rice Cooker (for individuals, 6,980 yen including tax)

The Super-Fast Bento Box Rice Cooker, which has recently been trending in the media, can cook rice for one person in just 14 minutes! Since release, it’s continued to be a mega-hit, with a number of celebrities also using and endorsing it!

“Since 2017, we have imported and sold the 'Handy Rice Cooker' from China. However, this product takes 50 minutes to cook rice, making it quite inconvenient. We set to work designing a similarly styled rice cooker with a decreased cooking time to speed things up.

“However, cooking rice fast can cause problems and ruin its taste, which meant we had to create a suitable heating method to preserve taste and ensure it didn't boil over. The result of this was a rice cooker that can cook roughly two bowls-worth of delicious rice in 19 minutes and one bowl in just 14 minutes!”

“No matter how expensive the rice cooker, the rice will deteriorate the more time passes, which is why the vast majority of people want to eat freshly cooked rice. When we heard reviews stating that our rice cooker could create scrumptious, freshly cooked rice, we were over the moon!

“While the average rice cooker is rounded with a heater in the middle, our rice cooker was designed to be rectangular with the heater stretched around the entire box. This allowed the heat to be transmitted faster and more evenly to all the rice inside. We also thought that a cute, stylish bento box shape would make the product more fun and interesting!

“One of our core development values is to keep products simple without an overbearing amount of functions. Because of this, the rice cooker has no timer or mode. It’s designed to quickly cook delicious rice, and that’s it! Plus, without any add-ons or flourishes, it’s surprisingly well-priced!”

  • Cordless Electric Knife Slim (5,980 including tax)

This light and user-friendly cordless electric knife was designed to cut soft, delicate foods and other items seamlessly.

“The predecessor to this model, which was released in 2019, had a particularly heavy neck, which is why we revamped it in 2020 to be slimmer, lighter, and easier.

“The most difficult aspect was the balance between weight and power. Naturally, if it were made lighter, the power would also decrease, which is why we came up with the idea of using two blades instead of one. One blade would hold down and stabilize the object while another would do the cutting.

“This allowed us to make the knife lighter overall without sacrificing power. We also carefully redesigned the balance and made the handle easier to hold, allowing food to be thoroughly cut all the way to the bottom with minimal effort. We also added a switch to increase safety and created a blade that could be completely washed for additional hygiene.”

“Recently, baking and eating bread at home has become all the rage, with photos of carefully crafted, designer sandwiches becoming particularly trendy on social media. With this, the need for bread and other foods to be cut in half without ruining its image has increased dramatically. This electric knife perfectly meets this demand, and, with USB charging, it can be used anywhere in the world!”

  • Hot Water Server mini2 (8,980 yen including tax)

This neat, compact device boils water in just 2 seconds!

“In response to demand for easy and instant tabletop boiling water, we developed and released the Hot Water Server in October 2020. After inserting a bottle, hot water will be served in just 2 seconds, with different temperature settings allowing you to make green tea, coffee, and more.

“Powerful heat is applied to a small pipe inside, creating hot water as it passes through. As it can only hold a small amount of water, it’s ideal for a quick cup of coffee or soup pick-me-up.”

“As the number of people working remotely has increased, we designed it to be stylish while not taking up much space to be the perfect desk accompaniment. The days of getting up and going to the kitchen for hot water are over!”

  • Homemade Yakitori Maker 2 (6,280 yen including tax)

Just stick in meat skewers and flick on the timer to enjoy authentic homemade yakitori anytime!

“Using the fish grill attached to most Japanese stoves doesn’t make good yakitori. When researching what should be done to solve this issue, we discovered the kebab grill overseas, which we customized to serve Japanese-style yakitori.

“This item is both fun and really easy to use. The problem with many roasting/grilling appliances is that the smoke is produced when fat drops onto the heater, making it very unpleasant. With this item, the heater is in the middle, surrounded by the spinning vertical meat skewers.

“As the fat drips down and completely avoids the heater, the smoke issue is removed while the meat is actually more healthy! As each skewer is constantly spinning, they are evenly cooked and super tender - watching them spin is surprisingly addictive!

“In addition to yakitori, this device can grill frankfurts, squid, and regional Japanese delicacies like kiritanpo, which is a famous food in Akita Prefecture of cooked rice roasted on a stick of cedarwood.

“As long as it’s on a stick, it can be grilled! The plate at the bottom is also removable, making it very hygienic. The current model fits up to 10 skewers; however, a more compact version with three skewers is being developed and will hopefully be available next year.”

  • Makase Tei Automatic Cup Ramen Maker (5,980 yen including tax)

This creative appliance aims to make the task of preparing and cooking cup ramen completely hassle-free.

“This apparatus came from the cup ramen-lovers in our company wondering if there wasn’t a way to automate and quicken the process of preparing their favorite treat. While cup ramen isn’t exactly the most difficult thing in the world to make, we wanted to go a step further and make the entire process completely painless. We really do seem like a lazy bunch, don’t we?

“With a design principle based on a coffee maker, making ramen with the Makase Tei is as simple as adding water, adjusting the height, and placing the cup of ramen on the stand. After waiting several moments, fresh, piping hot ramen will be ready for your enjoyment!”

“We also made the base extra sturdy to ensure it wouldn’t tip over when water was added. Because of this, it can handle even the biggest cup ramens with ease!”

LIVE JAPAN’s American Editor Tries Out Thanko Products!

For those wanting to see these remarkable products in action, we had LIVE JAPAN American editor Timothy test them out and share his honest opinions on ease-of-use, taste, and more!

  • Super-Fast Bento Box Rice Cooker: Scrumptious Rice in 14 Minutes!

We started off with the mega-popular Super-Fast Bento Box Rice Cooker. Adding the rice and water, we flicked on the switch and waited in anticipation!

After 14 minutes, we opened the lid to reveal the above! Ridiculously easy and unbelievably fast, steaming hot, freshly cooked white rice was served and ready to eat!

“I’m pretty surprised at how thoroughly it’s cooked! No crispy bottom. There’s definitely a certain satisfaction in eating freshly cooked, warm rice,” said Timothy.

Combining it with some side dishes from the combini, Timothy was treated to a warm, lavish lunch!

  • Electric Knife Slim: Slices Through Pie, Tomato, and More, With Ease!

After charging up the electric knife via USB in advance, all we had to do was insert the blade, and we were ready to get cutting!

Packed with many different textures, such as crunchy pastry, fluffy cream, and firm apple, apple pies are one of the most difficult foods to cut without making a mess.

However, as you can see, this electric knife made short, neat work of it!

Even tomatoes, which are notoriously difficult to slice thinly, were cut up perfectly with barely any effort. “I had no trouble using it. The blade is sharp and firm and feels great!”

  • Hot Water Server mini2: Steaming Hot Water in the Blink of an Eye!

The Hot Water Server’s simple design makes it a breeze to use - just insert a bottle of water and press the power button!

“Wow, it seriously works this fast! I’ve never had a cup of coffee served this quickly before!”

  • Homemade Yakitori Maker 2: Bring Home the Tastes of an Izakaya!

The Homemade Yakitori Maker 2 allows you to roast and relish authentic yakitori on your kitchen bench or dining table without mess or fuss.

Each individual yakitori skewer rotates automatically, allowing the heat to pass through thoroughly and evenly.

“It really does feel like I’m sitting in an izakaya watching them be grilled before my eyes. With fresh yakitori on the menu, dinnertime at home will be a lot more interesting!”

  • Makase Tei: Bring Your Cup Ramen Game to the Next Level!

Add water, remove the ramen lid, place it underneath, set the timer, and finish up that final task at work while your cup ramen is automatically made to perfection!

Once you’ve pressed the power button, the timing, pouring, and everything else is completely automated.

“This sure is handy. You could probably even just set this on your desk. Having to not go to the kitchen every time for ramen is a great bonus for busy people.”

Innovative Appliances Making Life Smoother!

From their own unique perspective, Thanko seeks to provide the world with products and gadgets to make the everyday interesting.

“Thanko seems to look in those nooks and crannies hidden within everyday life that most people don’t realize exists. Solving small, perhaps trivial yet still important modern-day issues is a very Japanese way of looking at the world,” said Timothy. Indeed, a truly blissful and productive modern life comes from ridding oneself of pesky inconveniences.

Owing to the innovation of Thanko and their stellar range of kitchenware and appliances, dinner and remote work can become straightforward, stress-free, and, most importantly, fun!

Thanko Rare-mono Shop Akihabara Main Store サンコーレアモノショップ 秋葉原総本店
Address: Shinsuehiro Bld.B, 3-14-8, Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo 101-0021
Phone Number: 03-5297-5783
- Mon - Thurs/Sun/Public Holidays: 11:00am - 7:00pm 
- Fri/Sat: 11:00am - 8:00pm
Closed: None (except New Year’s and occasional temporary closures)


Via Live Japan

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