Chindogu – The Japanese Art of Creating Almost Useless Objects

chindoguWorking from home is definitely more of a challenge than I could ever have imagined.

Normally a self-disciplined person, if I have stuff to do, I do it. But sitting at your desk, first thing in the morning, it seems like the whole day is stretching languorously before you. No commute to negotiate and no annoying cubicle leach to whittle away half your morning with his (I am sorry, but it usually is a ‘he’, of a certain age) fascinating tales of how he wiped the floor with the sales assistant when making his last major purchase (lawn mower, vacation, computer, TV etc).

To help me with this problem, Rob sent me a link to this article on David Seah’s website. It is about a ‘Procrastinators Clock’ which goes on your computer and guarantees to be up to 15 minutes fast at any one time. However, it changes how fast it is, so you never really know what the right time is, and, therefore, it is safer just to work on the assumption that the clock really is telling the right time and thus you are always early…

Apparently this type of gadget is something that the Japanese actually have a word to describe. The word is ‘Chindogu’. A Chindogu, to use the Wikipedia definition, is an object that seems, on the face of it, to solve a problem, but when it is used, it is so silly, socially embarrassing or problematic, that is actually no use whatsoever.

I love the examples that Wikipedia provides:

* a combined household duster and cocktail-shaker, for the housewife who wants to reward herself as she’s going along;

* the all-day tissue dispenser, which is basically a toilet roll fixed on top of a hat, for hay fever sufferers;

* duster slippers for cats, so they can help out with the housework;

I actually don’t see what’s wrong with a cocktail shaker/duster? What’s embarrassing or problematic with that?

Perhaps we should add here the gadget that the concerned pet owner from Huddersfield in the UK invented to allow him to ‘walk’ his goldfish?

In the process of wiriting this post I actually looked up Chindogu on Google Images and found many, many more examples. It’s worth a look. There are babies with dusters fitted to their romper suits, a pair of chopsticks with a built in fan to cool your noodles, a caulking machine that actually spreads jam instead of caulk, a telephone that has a barbell attached to it, so you can work out whenever the ‘phone rings. It goes on and on.

One of the defining features of Chindogu is that the idea is not supposed to be purely humourous. Which means that the people who invented these things were at least partly serious at the time.

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