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Chindōgu (珍道具) is a prank originating from Japan, which is done by a person seemingly inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem, but are in fact nothing more than a useless gag.
Literally translated, chindōgu means unusual (珍, chin) tool (道具, dōgu). The term was coined by Kenji Kawakami. Kenji was a former editor and contributor to the Japanese home-shopping magazine "Mail Order Life." In the magazine, Kenji used his spare pages to showcase several bizarre prototypes for products. He named these gadgets “chindōgu”, Kawakami himself said that a more appropriate translation is "weird tool". The special category of inventions then be familiarized by Japanese people.
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. Most classic chindogu products are collected in the book. Many examples got a sense of humor in the way they have been used. 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 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 suit, 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.
The International Chindogu Society
The International Chindogu Society was made to spread Chindogu around the world. The president of this society is Dan Papia, who is also a Chindogu expert. The society also has a website where anyone who has invented a Chindogu can post their success. It has a frequently asked questions page and a contact page, so anyone can get involved. At the moment, the society is quite small, but they are always looking for new members. The International Chindogu Society is also responsible for the Ten Tenets of Chindogu, which are also listed on their website.
The Ten Tenets of Chindōgu
The Chindogu Society develops ten tenets of Chindogu. The tenets function not only for explaining what principles the qualified chindogu product should have. They are more of the key spirits behind the products. which also inspires designers and users to think about the deep core of design in general. The ten tenets include:
- A Chindōgu cannot be for real use.
- A Chindōgu must exist.
- There must be a spirit of anarchy.
- Chindōgu are tools for everyday life.
- Chindōgu are not tradeable commodities.
- Humor must be the sole reason for creating chindogu.
- Chindōgu is not propaganda.
- Chindōgu is never taboo.
- Chindōgu cannot be patented.
- Chindōgu are without prejudice.
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.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- 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.
- The Art of Chindogu in a World Gone Mad, David McNeill. August 3, 2005.
- Analysing Chindogu: Applying Defamiliarisation to Security Design, Shamal Faily. May 5, 2012.
- Chindōgu Society Official Homepage (in Japanese)
- Interview with Kenji Kawakami
- CHINDOGU: THE UNUSELESS INVENTIONS CHINDOGU: THE UNUSELESS INVENTIONS OF KENJI KAWAKAMI
- chindogu-art-un-useless-inventions Chindogu: The Art of Un-useless Inventions