Chindogu: The Strange World Of “Un-useless” Japanese Inventions | Guidable Japan
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Chindogu: The Strange World Of “Un-useless” Japanese Inventions

By Margherita Jan 17, 2022

Chindogu, the “weird tools” and inventions born from the mind of Kenji Kawakami are the tools you didn’t know you need yet. 

The word chindogu (珍道具) is made up of two kanji, “chin” (珍) which means “rare, strange” and “dōgu” (道具) which translates to “tool”; a word that conveys in a very straightforward way the core meaning of chindogu.

What Are Chindogu Inventions Exactly?

Chindogu are useless, absurd inventions created to (almost) solve everyday problems. They are not really useful but are somehow fascinating. Some of the most renowned examples include the umbrella for shoes and the umbrella necktie whose pictures you can find all over the internet.

The father of chindogu is Kenji Kawakami, who at the time was a student of aeronautical engineering at Tokai University who began creating chindogu inventions during his spare time. 

Chindogu’s Manifesto: The 10 Tenets

Unexpectedly, chindogu started attracting the attention of the public and media as a result of their absurd quasi-usefulness, to the point that the International Chindogu Society was founded in 1997. To set clearer boundaries on what chindogu are and on how to define them, Kawakami also committed to the creation of a series of tenets as a reference when creating these new “weird tools”.

1. Chindogu cannot be for real use

Chindogu must be a tool that is useful in its own unique way but that doesn’t have any real use in everyday life. It should ultimately be a tool we can live without easily.

2. Chindogu must exist

This means that it has to be a real object that can be held and used. An idea for a chindogu written on paper is not a chindogu.

3. Chindogu must have the spirit of anarchy

Chindogu represents the spirit of freedom of thought and action. A chindogu can be anything your imagination can create – as long as it iss useless.

4. Chindogu are tools for everyday life

Chindogu are tools that can be easily used by anyone and that don’t require specific technical knowledge – tools that can be used and appreciated by anyone.

5. Chindogu are not a tradeable commodity

To put it simply, a chindogu cannot be sold or traded in any way. Money is not the objective when creating a chindogu.

6. Chindogu must be created out of humor

One should not try to think of the craziest and weirdest creation as just a mere exercise of humor. chindogu are created to solve a problem in an unconventional way.

7. Chindogu are not propaganda

Chindogu must not be used to address controversial political and social issues or theoretical commentary on the state of mankind.

8. Chindogu are not taboo

Chindogu should not, under any circumstances, relate to sexual or cruel humor.

9. Chindogu cannot be patented.

Chindogu are free for everyone to use. As such, they cannot be owned and the idea cannot be patented or copyrighted.

10. Chindogu are without prejudice.

Chindogu should be used by all human beings equally without limitations on age, gender, religion or race.

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Credit: International Chindogu Society

Top 5 “Unuseless” Japanese Chindogu Inventions

Chopstick Fan

A fan attached to your chopsticks will help you cool down your flaming hot noodles as soon as they leave the broth.

Umbrella Necktie

With the umbrella necktie, you will never leave the house unprepared during the long rainy season.

Laundry Golf Stick

Trying to find a more entertaining way to hang the laundry out to dry in your one-room apartment? Try the golf stick attached to a sock drying rack, so you can practice your swing while drying your socks!

Train Handle Plunger

Have you ever walked into a full train with nowhere to hang on to, hoping to keep your balance and not to fall over into someone? This chindogu is the one that will solve your problems: a grab handle attached to the end of a plunger that you can stick to the ceiling so that you can hang on no matter where you’re standing.

Picnic Pants

Finally: Picnic pants. These pants have extra fabric at the front, which straightens when sitting down with crossed legs. It is perfect for holding a couple of onigiris a couple of beer cans – and it is also social distance friendly. Worth considering them for the upcoming hanami season.

Which Chindogu Invention Would You Use?

These weird tools represent the essence of chindogu: they are strange, interesting, useful in their own useless way and definitely accessible to everyone.

They might not change our everyday life but they definitely could put a spark in a boring day – but I honestly feel like I could use the train plunger for my morning commute to the office. 

For More Related Articles:

The Best Japanese Inventions That Changed Our Lives

Featured image credit: International Chindogu Society