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Slurping silencer: Food maker developing fork to obscure sound of eating noodles

The noodle-slurping disguising "otohiko" fork that is being developed through crowdfunding by Nissin Food Products Co. (Photo courtesy of Nissin Food Products Co.)

Worried about the slurping sound you make when you eat noodles? Nissin Food Products Co. may have a solution with a new sound-activated fork that will cover up the noise.

    The company based in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward announced on Oct. 23 that it opened a crowdfunding project for the fork that would hide the sound of slurping noodles like soba and ramen by broadcasting a disguising sound via smartphone. The utensil will only go on sale if it reaches 5,000 preorders, and each fork is set at 14,800 yen with tax included.

    The noodle-slurping disguising fork "otohiko" that is being crowdfunded by developer Nissin Food Products Co. (Photo courtesy of Nissin Food Products Co.)

    The fork is the first in a line of products Nissin hopes to develop in a project to solve various food-related problems. Foreign tourists visiting Japan are not always familiar with the Japanese tradition of loudly slurping one's bowl of noodles, and some have gone as far as to call the sound "noodle harassment."

    In order to solve this problem so everyone can enjoy their meals together, Nissin took a hint from Kyushu toilet manufacturer Toto's "otohime" (sound princess) device that plays the sound of running water to cover up sounds made while on the toilet, and came up with the "otohiko" (sound prince).

    In the shape of a fork, the otohiko is installed with a microphone that picks up surrounding sounds. When it picks up the tell-tale slurping of a noodle meal, it sends a signal via near field communication to a smartphone installed with a special app, which then would broadcast a sound to disguise sounds made while over the bowl. The fork would be compatible with iPhone iOS and other major smartphone operating systems.

    The sound to be used as a cover-up is still being developed, but sound producer Shinya Kiyokawa says it will be "a pleasant sound like something is about to begin."

    The fork can be preordered at Nissin's online store (http://store.nissin.com/jp/special/productx/) until Dec. 15, 2017. A video of the product has been released on the website, but the final product may be subject to change.

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