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A pop-up manga cartoon titled Maruichi's Tea Time designed specially for TIME by popular artist Nozomi Yanahara

COVER: Gizmo Nation
For the past 50 years Japanese have embraced the notion that salvation is to be found through technical innovation--and the world has benefited from their ingenuity
Timeline: A look at the rise of technology in Japan (photo essay)
My Robot, My Friend: Japanese love not only to give their machines names, but also to make them pals
Viewpoint: Let no one say these citizens are automatons
Birth of a Robot: TIME takes an exclusive inside look at the design, construction and assembly of "Pino" (photo essay)
Land of the Rising Gadget: At times, this can seem like an almost fully automated society (photo essay)
The 10 Smartest Machines: These whiz-bang doo-dads are just around the corner; plus, the 5 dumbest head-scratching devices (photo essay)
Lonely Inventors: Surprisingly, the country doesn't always reward its most creative scientific minds
The Old Ways: Some tasks are still done better by humans
Local Talent: Ota ward remakes itself
Cellul-Oids: Japanese cinema is full of mechanical monsters, mayhem and monkey business
On the Boards: An interactive Shakespeare
Essay: Ryu Murakami bemoans the alienation of youth
Essay: Pico Iyer on why the new is old in Japan

CINEMA: Hong Kong's It Girl
Nervy, gifted and terribly precocious, actress Cecilia Cheung may be the local film industry's next great hope
Web-only Interview: Cecelia shuns fame, rarely goes out, and has already moved house five times this year to escape press attention

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Jun Takagi for TIME
Sony's wearable TV.

The Ten Smartest Machines
As new technologies add brains to nearly everything we use, these super-intelligent Japanese gizmos promise to help shape our not-too-distant future

Japan may have lagged behind in the technology of the moment, the Internet. But the country's traditional strength - designing and producing gadgets that are chic, convenient and comically small - will likely become more and more important as consumers harness the Net's power with devices other than the stodgy personal computer. The high-tech wonders pictured on the following pages are already taking shape in the R. and D. labs and design centers of Japan Inc. What they promise is a future where so-called "smart" machines really can do it all-a world of radical advances not just in consumer electronics but in manufacturing and medicine and even in the nation's mighty auto industry. Here is a look at 10 gizmos that will shape that world:

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