Chindogu which at first I thought was a Japanese artist named Chindogu making cool inventions but on further research realized was a form of Japanese art of inventing gadgets that seems useful for solving problems that we face daily but in fact creates more problems when used. So its kind of useless but looks useful sometimes described as “unuseless”. Chindogu when translated means unusual tool. The term was coined by Kenji Kawakami, a Japanese investor and editor of the magazine “Mail Order Life.” 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 Chindogu, first edition 1995. The popular success of this book prompted a follow-up, 99 More Unuseless Japanese Inventions, which was published a few years later. Together, the books have sold nearly a quarter of a million copies in Japan alone, and have been translated into most of the major world languages.
Chindogu cannot be used in proper sense and seems absurd but smart at the same time and not to forget the humor in it. In spite of the stipulation that chindogu should not be used for satirical ends, Kawakami himself does appear to regard them as a kind of antidote to consumerism, and the Western obsession with making life as ‘easy’ as possible. He describes chindogu as “invention dropouts,” anarchically brilliant ideas that have broken free from “the suffocating historical dominance of conservative utility.” One might wish to design chindogu for a number of reasons: such as, to improve one’s mental sharpness; to develop them as an art form; or simply to revel in a purely creative act without having to worry about utility or making money.
And then, of course, there is the simple pleasure to be had from a perfectly logical solution that turns out to be perfectly useless.
Chindogu 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.
Look out for the alarm-clock with snooze button in the middle of bed of sharp pins. I bet we could all use that. You can also see many more inventions nominated for awards in the website www.chindoguawards.com from around the world. Have a look, have a laugh and enjoy.