The Japanese are known the world over for their ingenuity, their inventiveness and their love of the absurd. Chindogu is a concept that combines all of these things and it has hit the country, and recently the world, by storm. Created by amateur inventor Kenji Kawakami in the 1980s, Chindogu is the art of the absurd invention. It merges the Japanese love of the bizarre and the absurd with the genius and talent of the aspiring armchair inventor. Chindogu is perhaps best understood as a kind of contemporary sport, akin to Googlewhacking and peir-jumping. Being ultimately pointless there is no winner in this game, although there are some rules as set out by Kawakami.
The rules of chindogu are simple. A chindogu must be both useless and useful at the same time, chindogu must have a real purpose (other than making people laugh) but also be completely unusable. A real prototype of the invention must be made for it to be called chindogu. Unfortunately, the rules also state that chindogu are not to be sold, once used for commercial gain the artefact would no longer be chindogu but a commercially viable product. Chindogu are also not to be patented, but are instead to be considered a gift to the world. Fortunately many chindogu have been sold, albeit as novelty items, but they are rarely patented.
Since the birth of the craze in the 1980s the concept has become not only a national pastime but also part of the Japanese national identity. When we think of Japan we think of robots, sushi and the myriad of bizarre Japanese inventions. Here are some of the best.
The 10-in-1 Gardening Tool
The 10-in-1 Gardening Tool is the very essence of chindogu itself. Whilst clearly a good idea, and useful in a strange kind of way, it is entirely impractical, unusable and quite bonkers.
Personal Rain Saver
If you are worried that the world as we know it could come crashing down on our heads at any time, you might want to get your hands on one of these handy rain saving devices. Essentially an upside-down umberella, it collects water in an easy to carry tank. With the price of bottled water going through the roof and utility bills on the rise this could prove to be very useful, if you could bare the embarrassment that is.
The idea of a device that will allow you to sleep on the subway has become somewhat of a national obsession for the Japanese, with various inventors working on different ways to perfect the idea. The biggest problem facing anyone who falls asleep on the subway is, of course, missing his or her stop. For this reason, most subway sleepers are now designed with a message board attached, so that other passengers will know when to wake you. However, you have to ask yourself if relying on the kindness of strangers is really such a good idea.
Butter in a stick. Brilliant! Unlike most chindogu creations this one has a very clear and practical purpose. It will not only help to keep your butter fresh but will also make it easier to serve, eliminating the need for butter knives.
Robotic vacuum cleaners are all the rage at the moment. But who wants to spend all that money on a robot shaped like a cat bowl when you could have your cat or your baby do the cleaning for you instead. Attaching dusters to you cat’s feet seems like a good idea, but you have to ask yourself how much dusting a cat would really get done in a day. Surely it would just dust the same chair over and over again.