One very cool device “only in Japan” is the I-Pot made by Zojirushi. A few years back, my wife and I bought one for my mother-in-law after she became a widow and began living alone. Her I-Pot was such a hit with her that she took over the payments from us (avoiding currency exchange problems, etc.) and she’s been using it everyday without fail ever since. My wife, her sister and her brother all get E-Mail or text messages on a real-time basis about their mother’s activity with respect to using this device. One day, my wife got a report that there was no use on that day. Nobody answered the phone at the house. A quick call from California to Yamanashi to a neighbor allowed them to check in on my mother-in-law’s welfare. The neighbor informed my wife that nobody was home but all seemed well and she would try to find out what happened. My wife’s sister who lived a few hours away also made an inquiry when she received the same report. It turned out, my mother-in-law was in a hurry that morning to go somewhere and never made tea (an almost unthinkable event in Japan for an elderly person). My mother-in-law was very impressed by this and it relaly made her feel comfortable that although her children were all living far away they could check up on her like this via this device.
Here are some links to articles online, including a new model that allows for wireless connectivity and control from a keitai (cell phone).