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Literally translated, chindōgu means unusual (珍 chin) tool (道具 dōgu). The term was coined by Kenji Kawakami, a Japanese inventor and editor of the magazine "Mail Order Life." Kawakami himself said that a more appropriate translation is "weird tool". Dan Papia then introduced it to the English-speaking world and popularized it as a monthly feature in his magazine, Tokyo Journal, encouraging readers to send in ideas. Kawakami and Papia collaborated on the English language book 101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindōgu in 1995.
Examples from the books include:
- A combined household duster and cocktail-shaker, for the housewife who wants to reward herself as she is going along.
- The all-day tissue dispenser, which is basically a toilet roll fixed on top of a hat, for hay fever sufferers.
- Duster slippers for cats, so they can help out with the housework.
- The all-over plastic bathing costume, to enable people who suffer from aquaphobia to swim without coming into contact with water.
- The baby mop, an outfit worn by babies, so that as they crawl around, the floor is cleaned.
- The selfie stick, which was featured in a 1995 book of "101 Un-Useless Japanese Inventions". While dismissed as a "useless invention" at the time, it later gained global popularity in the 21st century.
In the media
Chindōgu and its creator Kenji Kawakami also became a regular feature on a children's television show produced by the BBC called It'll Never Work?, a show in a similar vein as the BBC's Tomorrow's World; however, It'll Never Work usually focused more on wacky and humorous gadgets than on serious scientific and technological advances.
- Heath Robinson
- Jacques Carelman
- Jugaad, a similar Indian concept
- Kludge, a clever but inelegant solution to a problem
- List of Japanese inventions
- Rube Goldberg
- 99 More Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu. W. W. Norton & Company. January 1998. ISBN 978-0-393-31743-5.
- Szpirglas, Jeff (2005). "
AmazingAmusing Inventions". They Did WHAT?!: Your Guide to Weird and Wacky Things People Do. Dave Whamond. Hong Kong: Maple Tree Press. p. 60. ISBN 1-897066-23-6.
- Alex Scola. "Turns Out Japan Invented The 'Selfie-Stick' 20 Years Ago". Distractify. Archived from the original on 2015-01-09.
- Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place, Martin Fackler. The New York Times, October 20, 2007.
- The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions, Kenji Kawakami, trans. Dan Papia, ed. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Norton: New York, 2005.