T O K Y O, Dec. 12, 2000 -- Modern Japan boasts of many technological marvels: robot dogs that run and bark, ingenious household appliances that make everyday life easier, and computers that make fiendishly complex problems almost childishly simple.
But when it comes to which invention is best, the Japanese may not be thinking with their heads or their hearts... but their stomachs.
They named instant noodles the best invention of the 20th century.
As for life-changing technology, that came in at No. 2: karaoke.
The admittedly non-scientific poll by the Fuji Research Institute, a think-tank attached to the generally staid Fuji Bank, asked 2,000 adults in the Tokyo region to rate the greatest inventions of the 20th century in three categories: manufactured goods, culture and technology.
Respondents were asked to take into consideration worldwide acceptance of the various customs and inventions.
An astounding 692 placed instant noodles, an “invention” from 1958, at the top of the list.
Instant noodles went into commercial production in 1971, and almost 50 billion cups are now consumed each year worldwide. In 1996, a giant billboard of a steaming cup of noodles was erected above Times Square in New York City, a proud declaration of the place “ramen” has earned in world cuisine.
Rest of the Best
Headphone stereo sets, TV video games, CDs and cameras came in at 3-6, respectively, while the only human on the list — the great filmmaker Akira Kurosawa — came in at No. 7.
He may have finished behind instant noodles and off-key wailing, but at least he finished ahead of the Pokemon — barely. Known as “Poketto Monsters” (“Pocket Monsters”) in Japan, Pikachu and his popular little friends came in at No. 8.
In a bow to practicality, automobile-related technology came it at No. 9 — automobiles themselves, invented overseas, were not ranked.
Sushi, perhaps the original fast food, rounded out the top 10 list.
While the Fuji Institute’s survey may not have been the most scientific, it does suggest one thing: technology may rule the world, but at least in Tokyo, it begins and ends with the tastebuds.