What is the Curious Tradition of Chindogu?

The peculiar and extravagant oriental tradition of Chindogu is a whole philosophy with its own principles and a different way of seeing the usefulness of things.


The peculiar and extravagant oriental tradition of Chindogu is a whole philosophy with its own principles and a different way of seeing the usefulness of things. We explain what it is and what it consists of. You can also put it into practice!

Our lives and the objects that surround them are steeped in excessive pragmatism: everything seems to obey a functionality and the dominant thought is the logical-analytical, leaving in many cases the creativity to the side and suffocating the imagination of those people with more disruptive potential and other types of thinking such as lateral.

However, some people still dare to challenge the functionality and play with the absurd, developing inventions and devices that could be qualified as useless: we talk about the art of Chindogu, created by Japanese artist Kenji Kawakami in the 1990s. This term it is the union of the Japanese words chin, which means “strange”, and dougu, which means “device” or “tool”. Or what is the same: devices that right off the bat, do not seem to have excessive utility.

At first the Chindogu may seem useful, but additional problems hinder its practical application in daily life. Among famous examples we find a butter bar to spread the toast, sticks with a built-in fan to cool the food or heels with umbrellas to keep your feet dry.

What is the curious tradition of Chindogu?

Its prestige and international attention is such that prestigious institutions such as the University of Pittsburg provide resources to the ICS and organize their own chindogus competitions. And, from a creative perspective, these exercises serve to stimulate divergent thoughts, expand the imagination of students and make our imagination more elastic.

The official decalogue of Chindogu

As it appears on its official website, this is the Decalogue of the Chindogu according to the International Chindogu Society (ICS):

  1. Chindogu must be (almost) completely useful: This is the supreme principle. If your invention is real help and you use it all the time, it is not chindogu. Try selling it to the public because it could be worth millions.
  2. Chindogu must exist: That is, it is not worth to design the invention in paper format and draw a sketch. You must bring the invention into the physical world so that humanity can experience the truly useless thing that it is.
  3. Chindogu represents freedom of thought and action: While normal devices are designed to provide efficiency, ease of use and utility, the Chindogu are free to be what they need to be.
  4. The uselessness of Chondogu must be understood by all: If you create a device that is only recognized as useless by people with certain sets of knowledge – from medicine, physics or biology, for example – then it is not chindogu. Normal people should be able to recognize uselessness immediately.
  5. The Chindogu is not for sale: If you accept money for your invention, stop being chindogu. You have violated his spirit.
  6. Humor should not be the only reason to do Chindogu: Any humor derived from chindogu should be a side effect. The invention must attempt to seriously solve a problem. The indirect and unconventional way that solves the problem is the source of humor.
  7. The Chindogu are not propaganda: They are made to be used, even if they are (almost) useless. They are not, in themselves, a statement of any cause or philosophy.
  8. The Chindogu are never taboo: Chindogu’s inventions can not be made to enact or represent cheap sexual innuendos, vulgar humor or sick jokes that do not respect living beings.
  9. The Chindogu can not be patented: The invention must remain in the public domain, being free to be used and distributed. It must lack, therefore, intellectual property.
  10. The Chindogu are devoid of prejudices: The Chindogu tradition sees all human beings as equals. Therefore, they can not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, age group, gender or class.

As Tim Moore said: “It does not matter if the resulting invention is absurd, like Chindogu. The important thing is to continue exercising the mental muscle that crosses the cables, tries absurd combinations and establishes new associations.”