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The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

Posted October 26, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: japan otohiko ramen

A reliable source of fascination for me is the vast differences between Japanese and American culture. The fact that the Japanese are making dumbphones cool again, for example, is probably surprising to many Americans, as is Japan’s appreciation for high-tech toilets.

The latest tech from the Land of the Rising Sun seems almost too unbelievable to be true: the slurp-canceling fork. Ramen manufacturer Nissin is releasing the Otohiko, a fork designed to detect the sound of noodle-slurping and command a nearby smartphone to play a slurp-masking sound. The device costs $130 and will be produced in a limited run of 5,000 forks. Nissin is accepting “reservations” for the Otohiko until December 15th, according to their website.

To Americans, it might seem that the Otohiko is a marketing stunt, but noodle-slurping is problematic enough in Japan to warrant a novelty solution. As the video below implies, “real” Japanese noodle aficionados slurp their noodles, for several reasons. First, the noodles are likely to be hot, so slurping helps cool them before reaching the mouth. These same aficionados claim that slurped noodles taste better because slurping opens the nasal passages and enhances taste via scent. Slurping also makes a sound usually regarded as unpleasant to bystanders, which is where the problem arises.

I’m not convinced the video about the Otohiko’s R&D isn’t satire. Nissin presents their design team carefully recording slurping noises and using data mining to extract the basic characteristics of a slurp. When the fork’s directional mic detects a slurp, it signals a nearby smartphone to play a sound resembling a crashing wave. (To be honest, I didn’t find that to be much preferable to the slurp.)

If you’re a noodle-slurper who routinely drives a table-mate nuts, you’ve only got a little under two months to order your innovative slurp-masking fork. Aside from this micro-niche, this innovation seems like a cute solution to a VERY first-world problem.

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#1

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/26/2017 1:16 PM

I am speechless but perhaps not entirely surprised. Different problems for different cultures ... it's also possible that people enjoy setting problems and solving them, just for the practice.

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#2
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/26/2017 9:43 PM

I agree. Just like when the laser was invented it was dubbed "a solution looking for a problem", this appears to be PhDs with signal processing expertise looking for a problem to solve. Just my take...

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#22
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/31/2017 12:05 PM

I could take that personal, but I am feeling magnanimous today. Other than that, my back feels a bit out.

Glad I have no noodles in my future today.

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#23
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/31/2017 12:55 PM

There was one a few years ago. It seems that there was one cell phone already sold in Japan for every man, woman and child and the problem was to find new ways to sell cell phones.

The answer proposed was a pet cell phone, specifically a dog collar with built in cell phone, so that during the day you could call and talk to your pet. I saw it as a way to have a lot of really confused pets. However, they sold.

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#3

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/26/2017 10:28 PM

I can eat my Ramen with or without slurping using a plain old spoon.

In some cultures it is considered proper to slurp loudly.

Novelty gag gift.

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#4

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 7:28 AM

Really?

It's the 21st Century. Where's the Jetson type flying car I was promised?!

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#7
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 10:56 AM

if it was the Jetsons,... the noodles would come in a pill form.

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#5

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 9:30 AM

I first thought that this was satire but if so, why make the fork handle so large since it would not be true. Therefore it must be real. it will be a novelty to rich Japanese customers who want to have fun... for a day, then they will have buyers remorse for purchasing such a stupid device. first off, let the crappy noodles cool before you eat them and then you will have no need to suck them into your mouth and make a mess. and the second part about how they taste better because of the nasal passages opening up?? are you kidding me? this stuff comes in a Styrofoam cup for gods sake, it taste like crap from the git go. these people eat raw fish, or dried fish or ice cream that taste like fish... i wont even get into the dirty underwear vending machines.. but i'm sure that smells like fish too! they do not have taste buds so maybe that is why they are relying on their nose so much to differentiate between the actual noodle and the Styrofoam cup while eating this crap.

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#6

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 9:45 AM

I really can only process this from the position of "it's a gag".

I mean the size of the thing, that can't be an actual product suggestion someone took seriously.

I Hope.

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#8

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 11:07 AM

When working in Japan, I understood that some slurping was considered polite and that silent soup snorfling was considered to be somewhat rude. As quickly as styles and fads pass through, I wouldn't be surprised if the norms have changed.

On a related subject, I did see an article about a bathroom sound masking device, as the sounds of #2 were considered quite embarrassing.

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#9

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 11:11 AM

I suspect it's real. We had Japanese visitors at my place of work for several weeks. One day the cafeteria had a Chinese food bar with a lot of choices. The Japanese fellow I went to lunch with couldn't find anything he wanted to eat.

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#10

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 4:57 PM

Sounds like you're flushing a toilet, the Japanese really are obsessed with going to the bathroom, and in some cases the results(eecch)...I like to burp, but I refrain from doing so in public,, this is common courtesy, like refraining from talking loudly on a bluetooth headset while looking at other people who then think you are talking to them and respond with ,"What's that?" only to get a blank stare with continued ghost talking...I say if you have to eat like a pig, do so in your own company only, or take it outside where the ambient noise overwhelms the sounds of your piggish slurping....then again if everybody at the table is slurping with abandon, then well it's almost your duty to chime in isn't it....One can usually tell from the other guests at the table if one has committed a social faux pas by the expressions on their faces and the speed with which they appear.... the gravity of the offence is measured by the time that this suspended animation remains frozen in time...

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#11
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 5:52 PM

Now Eagle, you need to remember that these poor folks don't know what utensils are. This is a new concept. The traditional way to eat is as shown, hold bowl under mouth, push food into mouth with pieces of wood aka chopsticks. Not a quiet or particularly neat way to eat, and definitely burp generating as you tend to gulp air when eating this way resulting in the requisite "thank you" belch at the end of the meal.

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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 6:23 PM

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#18
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/30/2017 9:28 AM

I hole this doesn't come off as defensive, my intentions are instructive (and I hope slightly satirical).

The traditional way of eating (China and in the past I believe Japan too) was to have the food (meat and vegetables, not noodles) cut into bite sized portions during prep. Eating was to be peaceful (KungFu movies notwithstanding) and no stabbing or cutting was allowed. Therefore, only chopsticks were used , of course, do not have a sharp point. Warring periods were fairly common and they didn't want eating to resemble or remind them of fighting.

Even today in nicer restaurants in China where few foreigners go, slurping is still heard. The bowl is OK to pick up if it is soup, or the last of the rice. In restaurants, the bowl is likely to be left devoid of food; whereas with family, especially a celebratory dinner, it is very possible you will be given more food until some is left in your bowl. Only at that point you are considered by others to be truly full.

A full-fledged burp is (at least nowadays) considered rude in a public setting. Although elders can get by with it and everyone pretends to not notice. Burps happen and while some may be a little louder than normal in the US, most times they are trying to be discrete. Such as looking down and burping or turning the head and covering with a hand aka a fake cough.

Too much info, I know.

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#19
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/30/2017 10:04 AM

I worked with an engineer who grew up in China. Instead of spending two years in the Chinese army, he spend two years working on a tea farm.

During a week long trip with an English engineer who had been raised in India and him to Toronto Canada, he took us to an authentic Chinese restaurant and he confirmed what you have said. We had authentic curry on that trip too.

He also scared the crap out of us when it was his day to drive.

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#21
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/31/2017 7:43 AM

HA! I agree with that. During one particularly harrowing drive through rush hour traffic in southern China I told the English speaking driver that Chinese drivers are some of the best in the world. He laughed and told me it's like fish swimming upstream. A very good analogy. A three lane road can fairly easily fit five cars across, and not only at stoplights!

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#13

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 6:47 PM

What this does is cause a linked smartphone to generate a masking sound. I would be really impressed if there were a speaker in the fork handle that produced a sound that exactly canceled the slurping sound, sort of like noise-canceling headphones.

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#14
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/27/2017 7:08 PM

It would be funnier if it played tiny voices yelling help....

Just another day in Tokyo...

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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/28/2017 9:16 AM

Kinda like what a radio does in a car that's making a strange sound coming from the engine.

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#16

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/28/2017 1:02 PM

Let me see if I understand.

They waste thousands of dollars and tons-o-time developing a fork to silence slurping so as to not offend anyone?

Then they all eat the noodles WITH THE SAME FORK???????????????????

Might that not present a problem when dining in a large group?

I'll slurp with my own fork, thank you!

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#17
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/28/2017 8:45 PM

Don't listen to him....no man could have so many forks

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#20
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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

10/30/2017 10:14 AM

Or the 15 yo at the next table reprograms the damn thing to make loud fart sounds.

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Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

11/04/2017 2:05 PM

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#25

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

11/04/2017 6:49 PM

Just see the movie "Tampopo"!

Superlatively rewarding.

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#26

Re: The Latest from Japan: A Slurp-canceling Noodle Fork

11/06/2017 3:47 AM

So the noise from the the phone is not annoying?

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