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“Urawaza”: 6 Fascinating Japanese Life Hacks

“Urawaza”: 6 Fascinating Japanese Life Hacks

    I recently picked up a copy of “Urawaza: Secret Everyday Tips and Tricks from Japan” by Lisa Katayama, and I really enjoyed it. Described by Think Geek as “the Ninja version of Martha Stewart”, the book consists of dozens of off-centered lifestyle tips, covering everything from cooking tricks to winter sports.

    For example, you might “turbocharge” your winter sled by treating the bottom with nonstick cooking spray, or refresh stale coffee with a sprinkle of salt. Or, you might even use a household iron to help you perfect your bowling technique. If you have a common household problem, chances are that there is an urawaza trick that can help you out.

    The History of Urawaza

    As author Lisa Katayama explains in the introduction of the book, the culture of urawaza had its roots in post-WWII Japan. The country’s resources had been tapped by the war effort, and even basic provisions had become harder to come by.

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    There were plenty of families that were trying to do more with less after the war, and even in modern Japan there are many families living in tiny city apartments who are looking to make the most of their space and resources. In 1997, the Japanese TV program “The Ito Family Dinner Table” brought urawaza into the mainstream. The program became so popular that at one point, over 30 percent of Japanese households tuned in to watch the show every week.

    The Look of the Book

    Each tip in the book is framed on a single page, outlining the dilemma, the urawaza solution, and a brief blurb that explains why the tip works from the scientific standpoint. It’s short enough to read cover-to-cover in a single sitting, and accessible enough to skim through for only a few minutes at a time.

    Even the design of the book is geared to help the reader be more productive. The front of the book is emblazoned with big friendly letters that encourage the reader to “DO EVERYTHING BETTER!”, a move that reminds me warmly of the “DON’T PANIC” cover art of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    The obi-style wrapper on top of the book jacket is billed as “an instant fast-forward” (read: built-in bookmark) to help readers mark their place and easily refer back to tips they are looking to try out.

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    So, What’s In This Book?

    The book contains over 100 tips across seven topic sections. Readers can peruse a variety of life hacks that include health tips, tricks to “amaze your friends”, beauty advice, “household hacks”, kitchen/food tips, laundry shortcuts, and tips for the great outdoors.

    Basically, whether you are young or old, male or female, there will be plenty of relevant hacks and tips for you to peruse. Whether you are looking for a way to prevent your car doors from freezing shut in the winter, or want to learn to master the perfect manicure, there’s a hack for that.

    My Top Picks

    Out of the dozens of great tips in this book, I have selected six that I thought were really interesting, unique, or just plain useful. Narrowing it down was tough, but the following tips are pretty excellent.

    1. A Foolproof Hiccup Cure: Instead of drinking water or swallowing sugar, the book suggests that you stick a cotton swab into your mouth and try to tickle your uvula. Doing so will initiate a gag reflex that will override the hiccup cycle. Kinda gross, but foolproof.

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    2. Stop a Crying Baby: If you swish a little water in your mouth next to the baby’s ear, this will calm the child. This is because the sound is similar to the noises that the baby was accustomed to hearing while still in the womb.

    3. Vinegar Tricks: A dab of apple cider vinegar can banish blemishes, and a mix of white vinegar and tap water can be applied to your hair to make it shiny.

    4. Coffee Stains Begone: Boil spinach in water, and use that water and a toothbrush to lift stubborn coffee stains from fabrics. The oxalic acid present in spinach is good for busting coffee stains, but proceed with caution: this trick won’t work on white fabric because of the green pigments from the spinach.

    5. Fix a Shrunken Sweater: If you’ve accidentally shrunk a favorite wool sweater, you can return it to its original size by soaking it in a solution of tap water and hair conditioner for about 30 minutes.

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    6. Use Your Washing Machine as a Shredder: Just place your documents into a pair of nylon pantyhose, and send them through the wash. The ink will fade or blur, and the paper will crumple and fall apart.

    Conclusion

    I really enjoyed reading this book. Although I haven’t had a chance to try out every single trick yet, I’ve found that some are better than others. For example, the “soap-in-the-microwave” trick was fun to watch, but didn’t deliver much in terms of results.

    But, I especially enjoyed the “create your own urawaza” section at the tail end of the book, as well as the section devoted to the art of tsubo (Japanese pressure points). The tips are solid overall, and the book is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of life hacks.

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It? The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity? How to Diagnose the “Phantom Cursor” Issue on Your Mac Extreme Minimalism: Andrew Hyde and the 15-Item Lifestyle 6 Easy Tips for Living with 100 Items or Less

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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