August 19, 2004

Marshmallow vs. Baby Rack

aprica_marshmallow_3.jpgFrom the land of Godzilla vs. Mothra, during the week of Alien vs. Predator, here comes another pairing.

Japan loves to individually wrap things: $5 peaches, marshmallows, and babies. A while back, I posted about some ruffly infant dentist chair, but couldn't figure out what it was really for. When I saw them at the Baby Paradise superstore next to our hotel in Shikoku, I grilled the very serious sales clerk about them. Here's the deal:

Two major companies, Combi and Aprica make them. Combi calls theirs, chillingly, a "baby rack." (Not that rack, silly. And no, not that rack, either. 'Rack' sounds like 'raku,' which means 'comfortable' in Japanese. Hey, did you know that Nova means 'doesn't go' in Spanish?)

Aprica, who make a very "scientifically proven" pitch for their products, calls theirs the Marshmallow J-turn (actually, the Marshmallow J-turn 838 Thermo-Mamoru Sp02). In person, the Marshmallow was by far the most impressive/intimidating of the two.

Details are below, but the underlying theme of the sales pitch was all toofamiliar to this gaijin: the Japanese are different from you and me.

The Marshmallow J-turn is an infant bed that converts to a carseat. And by 'bed' I mean completely immobilizing, completely padded, impact-resistant cocoon.

aprica_marshmallow2.jpgUnlike foreign babies, I was told, Japanese babies need to be protected so their brains don't bounce around inside their still-forming skulls. Never mind that in the catalog, the only kids shown encased in the Marshmallow are caucasian.

Multiple nesting layers of foam padding (beautifully finished, I have to say. Our sleek Euro carseat was the Beverly Hillbillies' truck by comparison.) hold a newborn's head stationary, while side pads and a 5-point harness (again, with awesomely contoured padding) hold the kid steady (and at the optimal 170-degree angle). This level of protection is required for at least the first four months.

This much cocooning in a sweltering typhoon-soaked sauna (aka Japan in August) requires cooling; the Marshmallow has side air vents, which increase air flow beneath & behind the bundle of joy. There are neoprene foot protectors, too. The back folds up to become a car seat, which pivots on a heavy base to face rear- and forward. Weight: a whopping 14kg (which parent do you think is gonna be moving this Sony Wega-sized rig back and forth to the car? Ex-actly.)

As a car seat, the Marshmallow seems fairly normal, if a little cumbersome. (Nearly all the car seats I saw--and all the Apricas--have the t-bar floor support feature, in case/when they extend over the edge of the seat of your micromini Daihatsu Naked.)

MSRP on the Marshmallow J-Turn is 105,000 yen ($US960), a price scientifically designed to make the more common retail price-- 50,500 yen at Baby-Pro, for example--seem like a bargain.


Man that thing is nice. I always felt bad for the little guy when he had to be tucked in that car seat. He looked hunched up. He would be so much happier in a seat that reclines like that. Boy oh boy, if I only had $1,000 plus shipping. Why do these things cost so much? Becasue loving parents will pay any price to make their new babies lives comfortable and cry free.

Ummm.... Wouldn't it be quite a bit cheaper to give baby a sip or 6 of beer to keep em quiet?

OK, I realize that statement is riddiculous, but then again, so is paying 1000 clams for a freaking INFANT carseat that baby will outgrow in 6 months.

Sadly, I DO have to give our friends from the land of the rising Sun 'double plus' points for style though.........

"Becasue loving parents will pay any price to make their new babies lives comfortable and cry free."

Suckered in by guilt, are we?

It's an infant car seat - I have much better things to spend my $$ on then a 30 lb monstrosity - cool looks don't compensate for aching shoulders and back.


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