Saturday Surprise — Chindōgu

Welcome to the weekend, my friends.  I wasn’t sure there would be a Saturday Surprise this week, for I’m not in the best of humour, but I skipped Jolly Monday, and really didn’t want to let you down again this week.  Still, I was debating … cute animals?  A journey somewhere?  And then I hit on something totally unique and it fascinated me, so I’m hoping you will enjoy it.

It’s called Chindōgu, and it is the Japanese art of useless inventions!  Literally translated, chindōgu means unusual (珍 chin) tool (道具 dōgu).  Kenji Kawakami coined the term chindōgu. According to a 2001 article in Japan Times, Kawakami, now age 72, has made over 600 chindogu since he began inventing. Yet he doesn’t own any patents and has never made a single yen by selling his creations …

“I despise materialism and how everything is turned into a commodity. Things that should belong to everyone are patented and turned into private property. I’ve never registered a patent and I never will because the world of patents is dirty, full of greed and competition.”

Despite the seemingly universal appeal for his inventions and their purpose to amuse, Kawakami laments that sometimes he is not taken seriously.

“In Europe they treat me as an artist. In Australia and Canada, I’m called a scientist. In China and Hong they wonder why I don’t try to make money from my inventions. But in Japan and the US, they consider me a maker of party goods.”

There are ten commandments of chindōgu:

  1. A Chindōgu cannot be for real use — They must be, from a practical point of view, (almost) completely useless. “If you invent something which turns out to be so handy that you use it all the time, then you have failed to make a Chindōgu,” it says.
  2. A Chindōgu must exist — A Chindōgu must be something that you can actually hold, even if you aren’t going to use it.
  3. There must be the spirit of anarchy — A chindōgu must be an object that have broken free from the chains of usefulness. They represent freedom of thought and action.
  4. Chindōgu are tools for everyday life — Chindōgu must be useful (or useless) to everyone around the world for everyday life.
  5. Chindōgu are not for sale — Chindōgu cannot be sold. “If you accept money for one, you surrender your purity,” it says.
  6. Humor must be the sole reason for creating a chindōgu — The creation of Chindogu is fundamentally a problem-solving activity. Humor is simply the by-product of finding an elaborate or unconventional solution to a problem.
  7. Chindōgu is not propaganda — Chindōgu should be innocent. They should not be created as a perverse or ironic comment on the sorry state of mankind.
  8. Chindōgu are never taboo — Chindōgu must adhere to society’s basic standards.
  9. Chindōgu cannot be patented — Chindōgu cannot be copyrighted, patented, collected and owned.
  10. Chindōgu are without prejudice — Everyone should have an equal chance to enjoy every Chindōgu.

Let’s take a look at some, shall we?


Baby mop

How convenient … let your baby clean the floor while he’s learning to crawl!  Put ‘em to work early!


Cat mop

Or, if you prefer, let the cat clean the floor.  That cat looks none too happy, though.


Chindōgu gloves

How cool!  Everything you need, literally right at your fingertips!


Noodle cooler

Now this one is really pretty clever, albeit perhaps a bit bulky … a small fan attached to chopsticks to cool the noodles on the way to your mouth!


Butter stick

Because you just never know when you’re going to run into a slice of unbuttered toast, right?  My luck, I would get it confused with my chapstick.


Finger toothbrush

And after you ate that slice of buttered toast, well of course you’ll be wanting to brush.


Toilet paper hat

For those times when just a few tissues stuffed into your pockets simply aren’t enough.


Camera umbrella

Awww, now isn’t that cute … a little umbrella for when that perfect photo op comes along on a rainy day!


Shoe umbrella

And since you wouldn’t want to get your feet wet while lining up that photo op …


Banana holder

Now who doesn’t need a case for their banana?


Bubble wrap keychain

For those times when either, a) you’re bored/stressed and need something to do with your hands, or b) you just want to annoy the heck out of someone.


Third hand

Now this is one I can see being useful!  More than once I have had to have a fingertip sewn back on because I took my eye off the ball … er, knife!


Sun lighter

Zippo ran out of fluid?  Bic just won’t flick?  No worries … this amazing sun-lighter will magnify the sun’s rays and presto, your smoke is lit.  Well, actually it may take a long time if it isn’t a particularly hot and sunny day.  Still …


Storage tie

What could be more convenient than having everything you need stored in the back of your ties?  Um … pockets?

Well, I hope you enjoyed some of these fun, un-useless inventions!  Now off with you … go have a wonderful, fun weekend!

17 thoughts on “Saturday Surprise — Chindōgu

  1. As I read this post, some bits of memory began falling out from within the convolutions of my weary brain. The name Kenji Kawakami seemed familiar, but it was the bizarre inventions that I recognized as having seen somewhere…but where? Then in a flash of enlightenment, just like that, I knew!! A quick trip down to eldest daughter’s vast bookshelves confirmed it for me. There are four books there by him, all paperbacks, in the order they were published. I made a quick call to her for some information (the call was not initially met with enthusiasm?) that she provided. The first book “101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions” from 1995 was gift from her brother upon her high school graduation. She loved it and has purchased the other three over the years : 1997’s “99 More Unuseless Japanese Inventions”, 2004’s “Bumper Book of Unuseless Japanese Inventions” and the 2005 “The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions”. What she did tell me, that might be of interest to you, is that there is an International Chindogu Society that was founded by Kenji and Dan Papia. He was the editor of a Japanese/English magazine that spread the idea and is the president of the society. She thinks that the books were the result of their partnership. I had looked at the first book when she received it, but knew nothing of the others and now will remedy that soon. Oh yes, she said to tell you that Kenji Kawakami is known as the World’s First “Chindogist” and that “chin” also means “weird” in Japanese! I am curious though, how did this entertaining and amusing character catch your eye? I had not thought of this in the last 24 years and most likely would not have anytime soon…but for this delightful post! Thank-you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now why am I not surprised to find that your daughter knew of this man and his inventions long before I happened across him? I did not know of either the international society, nor that Kenji Kawakami was the world’s first ‘Chindogist’ … heck, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Chindogist! Thanks for adding to my knowledge!

      As to how I came across him, it was while searching for last week’s Saturday Surprise in a site I often visit when I’m searching for interesting places. The site is called Amusing Planet, and I think you would enjoy it I’m so glad you liked the post and that it led you to discover the books in your daughter’s library, which I’m sure you are happily devouring!


    • Ohhhh … I can’t wait to see what you come up with!!! Perhaps I can feature your invention in a future post! Yes, it is the perfect antidote and shows that some people DO care about other things besides money.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a person who understands Kenji’s sense of the ridiculous, and agrees completely with him that the world of patents–let’s just make that the world–is a horribly greedy place to be. Not everything needs to be about money. Spirituality, for one, belongs to all of us, and anyone who charges for spiritual insights is a traitor to life! As well as a liar to his or her customers! If it isn’t free it is not worth the paper it is printed on. Go Kenji Go!

    Liked by 1 person

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