[From February Issue 2011]
It is said that the Japanese work far too much. In fact, it is very common for Japanese to work overtime until late at night, as well as over the holidays. That’s why fatigue-reducing equipment continues to evolve in this country.
In 1954 Fujiiryoki Co., Ltd. became the world’s first company to design and manufacture a massage chair. Momi-dama (kneading balls) and air bags installed within the massage chair’s frame, mold and manipulate the human body. And while the company sells several different chairs types, presently its most sophisticated model is the Cyber Relax AS-840.
The AS-840 was developed to mimic the same movements as human hands. It has been programmed to perform 796 different kinds of massage in order to meet various specific needs, including “massaging the whole body” or “loosening up the lower back.” Two kneading balls located in the chair back are powered by four electric motors which control the massage intensity, the up-and-down movement, and the tapping and kneading functions. The 42 air bags within the chair expand and contract to stretch and twist the body being massaged. Before starting to massage, a chair sensor measures the line from the occupant’s shoulders to waist, so that it can then perform a massage suitable to the build of that particular person.
“Every time I design a new chair prototype, I test it on my own body. Sometimes, I get massaged all day long, for days on end. It’s during those times that I find it difficult to sleep at night because it feels like my body is still being massaged when I go to bed,” says FUJISHIRO Mitsuaki, product development team manager. “On my days off, I sometimes visit electric appliance stores to check out the massage chairs on display. And when I see someone praising one of ours, I get an extremely happy feeling,” he adds.
Rinnai Co., Ltd. and Toho Gas Ltd. jointly developed the RBHM-C415K1U, a bathroom heater/dryer that installs into the ceiling and also offers a massage function. Located above the tub, it drops hot water onto the person below creating a relaxing feeling.
“We developed this product, hoping to design a bathroom where you not only wash your body and warm yourself, but also relax and relieve your fatigue,” says SATO Shinjiro, a sales and planning department team member. “At hot springs and public bathhouses, you can get a similar massage called ‘utaseyu’ (hit with hot water) which uses this dripping technique. So I wanted to make that available at home, too.”
Those in charge of the product’s development actually went to a hot spring to capture the way the water fell using high-speed photography, further researching and measuring the amount and speed of the falling water. What they discovered was that the water formed round droplets when it hit the body. So, in order to reproduce this for household bathrooms, they repeated experiments with different nozzle shapes and various amounts of water.
“We were measuring and taking photographs at the hot spring very often, so some local people got suspicious and told us not to do it,” Sato laughs. “But when one of our customers told me that our product’s massages felt really good, then I knew that it was really worth all that trouble.”
Text: SAZAKI Ryo