Urawaza: Time Tested Tips for Troubled Times

Lisa Katayama promoting Urawaza at Double Punch... either the book is really big or Lisa's really tiny.Lisa Katayama promoting Urawaza at Double Punch... either the book is really big or Lisa's really tiny.
Lisa Katayama is a modern renaissance women with her finger firmly pressed upon the pulse of society's trends. Bilingual and bi-national (she divides her time between Tokyo and Frisco), Katayama's prolific output regularly appears on the virtual pages of Wired, Giant Robot and her own popular blog TokyoMango.

The fact that she's been able to compile over 100 useful, practical and economical tips into an ink & paper book (remember those?) called Urawaza is notable in itself - does the woman ever sleep?

But enough about her sleeping habits, let's get to Urawaza. Many of the so-called "tips & tricks" originated in the difficult years following World War II when Occupied Japan struggled to recover from the ravages of war - conventional and nuclear.

Tough times foster creative ingenuity on a low budget, or as Katayama puts it, "people looked for ways to do with what they had." That facet of Urawaza is especially timely today as people around the world try to cope with slashed paychecks, pink slips and the red ink oozing from their monthly bank statements.

Here's a small sampling of urawaza tips from Katayama's explanatory article in The Japan Times:

Dilemma: You are at the beach for your kid's birthday, and there are a gazillion little beach balls and floats waiting to be blown up. You have to think of a way to do this without passing out from lack of oxygen.

Solution: Hold a medium-size garbage bag open and wave it around to fill it with air. Stick one end of a drinking straw into the tube tip of the float and wrap the opening of the garbage bag around the other end, then slowly deflate the garbage bag.

Dilemma: The company bowling tournament is coming up, and the winner gets an extra grand in his or her bonus this year. You want it - bad - but right now you can barely keep the ball out of the gutter.

Solution: Take an iron - yep, the one you use to press your shirts - to the bowling alley and practice pointing the end of it at the second arrow from the right on the lane as you make your approach.

Why this works: This angle positions you perfectly for a dead-center throw. When you repeat this motion with the ball, you get the angle down pat before you factor in the weight and awkwardness of the ball.

Dilemma: The roads are slippery with rain, but you want to wear Prada pumps to work.

Solution: Apply two Band-Aids to the sole of each shoe (one on the ball and one on the heel) and your fancy kicks will be as sure footed as rubber boots.

Why this works: Rainy-day slipperiness happens when water gets between the soles of your shoes and the ground's surface. The gauze patches of a bandage absorb water and greatly improve traction.


Urawaza also draws upon Japanese folk wisdom, such as a handy cure for constipation that requires neither ingestions nor insertions... thanks for that, Lisa.

If you want to buy a copy of Urawaza, you can pick one up online at Amazon or Chronicle Books. Needless to say, it's cheap - and these days, being thrifty is really nifty.

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