If you love the quirkier side of Japan, do check out The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions. The book is written by Kenji Kawakami who is well-known for his fascination with such innovations. The book contains more than a 100 such gadgets and devices, most of which will make you laugh out loud. Brace yourself for evening of fun gazing at photographs of some of the most hilarious Chindogu inventions out there.
First things first, what is a Chindogu? That particular term encompasses a range of inventions that have some rather unusual traits. Thus, an item that is defined as a Chindogu must be used for everyday life and it must be original but should also have a somewhat bizarre twist to it. Funnily enough they must be actual devices (i.e. not just a concept that was put together on paper by an enterprising fellow somewhere) and they should not be up for sale. And of course, something can only be Chindogu if you burst out laughing when you first cast eyes on the end-product.
So, Chindogu is a useful term for 'unuseless' products. Well, apparently there are tons of items that could easily pass off as Chindogu and folks like Kawakami fell in love with the idea. He dedicated a lot of his time to uncovering more about such items. In fact, the man is responsible for the word 'Chindogu' itself and he set up the International Chindogu Society, a group of folks who love finding out about the Chindogu-style devices from Japan.
I suppose he didn't want to stop there. This book is also an expression of Kawakami's love for Chindogu. The book details some of the most classic examples. As a matter of fact, a lot of these gadgets have been featured over and over again all over the internet. Consider the Cat Dust Slippers whereby, in theory, you can use your cat as a floor sweeper. What about the Full Length Umbrella, a silly little number which is basically a normal umbrella hooked up with long transparent plastic covering. Don't forget the T-shirt with handy little chart on the back. Apparently the number vs. letter axis drawn on this will help pinpoint where you want to be scratched. The Hay Fever Hat is another excellent example. Just imagine that someone has jimmied a toilet roll dispenser, complete with the roll, to a strap that can be fixed on top of your head. Call it pure brilliance or temporary insanity but that's what these devices are all about. They all look like they might work (and they probably will too)… except when you think about actual usage!
The Big Bento Book about Chindogu will certainly tickle your funny bone. Granted, this may not be the most culture specific book but it definitely cast insight into one of the strangest cultural trends to make it out of Japan. Today, there are Chindogu fans around the world who not only collect this book and its follow-ups but strive to nab a Chindogu or two themselves.