"Japan has long been a world trendsetter, launching icons like the Sony Walkman and Honda Civic and sparking crazes for Tamagotchi and the wide-eyed characters of anime films. But lately, thanks to an economic transformation a decade in the making, Japan has shifted its trendmaking machinery to high gear. As its economy grows again, quirky creativity has become one of its biggest growth industries."
A list of recent innovations found in Tokyo include Jesus-themed restaurants, T-shirts that release Vitamin C to the skin, an earwax camera, Converse sneakers covered in fake jewels and hot-tub karaoke. (Oh, and there's my personal favorite: the "maid cafe," where waitresses dressed in black-and-white French maid outfits greet each customer with the phrase, "Welcome home, master.") One innovation that I can see gaining a foothold in Silicon Valley (home of the lava lamp) is the Banpresto Aquapict Jellyfish Aquarium, which is basically a water tank filled with live jellyfish which are then illuminated by an LED device so as to appear purple, green or pink.
To review the latest in Japanese innovation, check out the archives of JSPY, which was a great "spy" site for Japanese trends. (Unfortunately, much like the recently-deceased Business Innovation Insider, the Jspy blog is no longer live, having passed away in September 2006.)