These are tough times for the Japanese technology industry, and Sharp knows that as well as most. However, smartphones are one area where the company has found domestic success of late, albeit in second place behind Apple. The Aquos Phone 104SH recently launched as SoftBank's flagship iPhone alternative, and on paper it's certainly an impressive effort — the phone has a 4.5-inch 720p LCD screen, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and a 12-megapixel camera all encased in an 8.9mm-thin water-resistant shell. The phone also comes with Android 4.0 as standard, and when it launched was only the second in the world to do so after last year's Galaxy Nexus.

It's a long spec sheet, then, but what's as interesting as what it includes is what it leaves out. The 104SH omits many hardware features considered standard in Japan, such as NFC, infrared, and a 1seg TV tuner, in favor of a more Western-oriented feature set. Sharp hasn't yet made any move in the global high-end mobile market, but the Aquos Phone 104SH could be as good a place to start as any — would it have what it takes to stand up against the likes of Samsung and HTC? Or, like natto and AKB48, are Sharp's phones better off left in Japan?