Definition: Chindogu


Basically, the art of inventing completely useless things.


More formally…

Chindōgu (珍道具) is a prank originating from Japan, which is done by a person seemingly inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem, but are in fact nothing more than a useless gag.


Formally or not, this is serious stuff, with LOTS of constraints to be proper, as are many Japanese concepts, things, etc.


The Ten Tenets of Chindogu


  1. It is fundamental to the spirit of Chindogu that inventions claiming Chindogu status 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 Chindogu. Try the Patent Office.
  2. You’re not allowed to use a Chindogu, but it must be made. You have to be able to hold it in your hand and think “I can actually imagine someone using this. Almost.” In order to be useless, it must first be.
  3. Chindogu are man-made objects that have broken free from the chains of usefulness. They represent freedom of thought and action: the freedom to challenge the suffocating historical dominance of conservative utility; and the freedom to be (almost) useless.
  4. Chindogu are a form of nonverbal communication understandable to everyone. Everywhere. Specialised or technical inventions, like a three-handled sprocket loosener for drainpipes centered between two under-the-sink cabinet doors (the uselessness of which will only be appreciated by plumbers), do not count.
  5. Chindogu are not tradable commodities. If you accept money for one,, you surrender your purity. They must not even be sold. Even as a joke.
  6. 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. You try your best, you nearly succeed. Then you realize, sardonically, that your problem may not have been all that pressing to begin with.
  7. Chindogu are innocent. They are made to be used, even though they cannot be used. They should not be created as a perverse or ironic comment on the sorry state of mankind. Make them instead with the best intentions.
  8. The International Chindogu Society has established certain standards of social decency. Cheap sexual innuendo, humor of a vulgar nature, and sick or cruel jokes that debase the sanctity of living things are not allowed. If you’re looking for baser humor, we have a feeling it can be found elsewhere on the internet. Actually, we’re pretty sure.
  9. Chindogu are offerings to the rest of the world. They are not therefore ideas to be copyrighted, patented, collected and owned. As they say in Spain: “Mi Chindogu es tu Chindogu.”
  10. Chindogu must never favour one race or religion over another. Young and old, male and female, rich and poor — All should have a free and equal chance to enjoy each and every Chindogu. Even Korean people.


From this hilarious 99 Percent Invisible podcast below…


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