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What is a Chindogu?
Chindogus are gadgets invented to solve a particular everyday problem. However, due to their unpractical or silly nature, they cause even bigger problems while using them and therefore are mostly only used once and are usually not reproduced in a higher number.
The origins of Chindogu lie in Japan, where it is regarded as a form of art. Literally translated “Chindogu” means “Valuable/Priceless Tool” (1).
The concept of Chindogu was introduced by the Japanese inventor and writer Kenji Kawakami (2). In the nineties he published a book called 101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The art of Chindogu . The book was so successful that he later on published a follow up called 99 More Unuseless Japanese Inventions(3).
The 10 Rules of Chindogu
In general, anyone can design and produce a Chindogu. However, in order for it to be excepted as such, 10 key tenets have to be followed. These tenets are:
1. “A Chindogu cannot be for real use” (4)
A Chindogu must be an invention that is almost useless. If it turns out to be practical and that one can use it on a daily basis, it is not regarded as a Chindogu.
2. “A Chindogu must exist” (5)
A Chindogu must be something that you can make and theoretically use. It cannot be just a mere idea or concept.
3. “Inherent in every Chindogu is the spirit of anarchy” (6)
It is important to keep in mind that Chindogu is seen as a form of philosophy. The idea behind it is to challenge the “suffocating historical dominance of conservative utility” (7) by producing something that is almost completely useless.
4. “Chindogus are tools for everyday life” (8)
Since Chindogus contain a certain critical philosophy behind them and thus are a “form of nonverbal communication” (9) they must be understandable to everyone. If it turns out that the philosophical idea behind the invented object is only understood by e.g. computer technicians, the invention cannot be called a Chindogu.
5. “Chindogu are not for sale” (10)
Chindogus are not allowed to be sold to anyone, not even as a joke, otherwise the purity of the intent is surrenderd.
6. “Humour must not be the sole reason for creating a Chindogu” (11)
Although Chindogus might seem funny or silly to people who look at them, they should not be produced for humorous reasons; they should fundamentally created to solve a problem.
7. “Chindogu is not propaganda” (12)
Chindogus are invented to solve a potential problem and to be used theoretically. “They should not be created as a perverse or ironic comment on the sorry state of mankind.” (13)
8. “Chindogu are never taboo” (14)
Chindogus are not allowed to cross the line. Their concepts may not contain any vulgarity, cruelty or “debase the sanctity of living things” (15). E.g. sex toy inventions are not allowed: they are not a Chindogu.
9. “Chindogus cannot be patented” (16)
Chindogus cannot be patented or copyrighted. They are produced to share a certain idea which is there to be shared with everybody.
10. “Chindogu are without prejudice” (17)
Chindogus must not discriminate against anyone and should be able to be enjoyed by everyone, not matter what race, age, gender or ethnic group they come from.
Examples of Chindogu
1. Fake Cross Walk
2. Back Scratch Scale T-Shirt + Matching Grid
3. Watch View Jacket
(1) – (3) Wikipedia: Chindogu
(4) – (17) The 10 Chindogu Tenets