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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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Tom Wagner/Saba for TIME

Miracle Of Life
A Japanese research team gives TIME an exclusive inside look at the birth of "Pino,"a robot child

For six months, the researchers on scientist Hiroaki Kitano's robotics team in Tokyo had been trying to create a baby robot. On April 18 they finally succeeded, and they gave TIME exclusive access to both the gestation and the "birth."After putting 35 exterior polyurethane panels-painted snow white and apple green-around the approximately 150 mechanical pieces that make the robot run, they stood back and admired their handiwork: a 75 cm tall, 8 kg bundle of joy that could already walk-gingerly-and kick a soccer ball.

Kitano's baby has 29 motors that power one body movement each - a bending elbow, for example, or a flexing knee. Later the robot will be able to respond to voice commands, recognize faces and, the ultimate goal, play soccer. Its name? "Pino" - short for Pinocchio, the wooden doll who wanted to be a boy.

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