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Chindogu: The Art Of The Unuseless

    1 . Chindogu: The Art Of The Unuseless     2 . The Top Five Chindogus
    3 . What is and what is not a Chindogu ?     4 . Fake But Irresistible Chindogus
 el 1 Sep 2008 por Alicia Rodríguez Mediavilla

Chindogu: The Art Of The Unuseless

A chindogu is an unusual gadget, originally created as the solution to a particular problem, although effectively it hardly has any utility whatsoever, it’s really almost useless. The world has always been full of these gadgets...

The allergic kit: all-day tissue dispenser & eye drop application glasses
The allergic kit: all-day tissue dispenser & eye drop application glasses
The allergic kit: all-day tissue dispenser & eye drop application glasses Solar-powered flowerpot with wheels. Your plants will run for the sun! Kenji Kawakami, the chindogu guru. The "101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions" cover art for English edition. They soon ran out of space on the first volume
You surely have wondered more than once if those absurd gadgets that the Japanese love so much, really exist. You might have seen some of them on the internet: the all-day tissue dispenser (a toilet roll fixed to a hat for people with hay fever), the ultra-quick nail polish or the solar powered lighter. Well, they do exist, you can find them out there and they’re called chindogus, but for a gadget or an object to be considered a chindogu, there’s a set of regulations that define their philosophy, and amongst the vital tenets for chindogus we learn that a chindogu cannot have a real use and that chindogus are not for sale. So what’s the deal, do they or don’t they exist?

A chindogu is something like the result of a first attempt to try and create a gadget as the solution to a particular everyday problem. And they do actually solve a problem; however, in doing so it causes so many new problems or such social embarrassment, that they cannot be regarded as useless in an absolute sense. So really, chindogus cannot be called useful in practical terms, they do actually solve a problem but effectively they have no utility, so you could say that they’re perfectly useless, or could be described as “unuseless”, this is to say that they are not exactly useful but they do actually solve a problem.

We can understand this easily with the first example of chindogu mentioned above, the all-day tissue dispenser (which is basically a toilet roll fixed to a hat). If you have hay fever and you need a tissue always at hand, this chindogu invention might come in useful. Which better way to cope with heavy blowing and incessant sneezing than having always a tissue close to your nose? But then again, the use of this chindogu might create a balance problem and a significant social embarrassment, would you dare ware it to go shopping?

Chindogu is a Japanese invention, it couldn’t be any other way!-, but the rest of the world hasn’t stayed behind either. The term was coined by Kenji Kawakami, who first compiled these inventions in his book “101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu” (1995). And the name he used to call these inventions – chindogu(珍道具)– literally translated means 'unusual tool', where "Chin" means 'unusual' or and "Dogu" means 'tool'.

But don’t get the wrong idea! We’re not talking here about frustrated inventors, those who design chindogus are very proud of their creations, and they will, without hesitation, abide by the rules of the International Chindogu Society, so their unuseless invention can become part of the chindogus official catalogue.
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