What is the Japanese art of Chindōgu?

It’s difficult, not to mention unwise, to make sweeping generalizations about entire cultures and societies. But in the case of modern Japan, it’s hard not to. I’ve always found there to be something a bit eccentric— though endearingly so– about modern Japanese culture. And when I stumble across things like Chindōgu, it only reinforces that belief.

Chindōgu is the Japanese art of inventing gadgets that solve everyday problems, but in an entirely impractical way. The word Chindōgu, literally translated, means “weird tool,” and it’s easy to see why. Chindōgu has been called “part Rube Goldberg machine, part Zen,” and that seems to be an apt description.

Here’s the perfect example of Chindōgu: Tired of falling asleep on the subway and having your head bob forward? You’re in luck– there’s a hat with a plunger on it that will stick to the window next to you, keeping your head in place.

Or tired of risking your life to cross busy streets? Here’s the thing for you– a do-it-yourself crosswalk. (Careful laying it down though.)

There are entire websites devoted to tracking these entertaining inventions, complete with the “Tenents” of Chindōgu. This site has lots of examples (but be sure to turn the sound down).

Here’s one of my favorite examples of Chindōgu:


Posted by | Comments (1)  | January 26, 2008
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

One Response to “What is the Japanese art of Chindōgu?”

  1. Mel Adamaitis Says:

    I want one of those. ^^