Chindogu, making the simple complicated

Today's bizarrely fascinating cultural nugget from Japan: Chindogu. Literally translated as "weird tool," Chindogu is the Japanese art of creating deliberately complex devices that solve simple everyday problems.

Here is one example:

The Dumbbell Phone

People cite "lack of time" as the number one reason they don't work out more. With the dumbbell phone, that's no longer an excuse. Great for bulking up at your otherwise worthless telemarketing job, this phone will have you shaped and sculpted in no time.

This phone also makes a great gift, especially to that parent, friend, or girlfriend who's been known to talk your ear off on the phone. It's subtle, but effective, especially for those with weak arms.

You'll see a photo here, along with a discussion of other ideas, such as using "solar power" to light your cigarette or a fan to cool off your hot noodles.  The "grid-backed" shirt helps you tell your partner where to scratch your back.  It's a trend:

There's the International Chindogu Society, the Ten Tenets of Chindogu (Number Three: "Inherent in every Chindogu is the spirit of anarchy"), and scores of websites devoted to tracking the newest, and most ridiculous, Chindogu inventions.


best book ever:

I remember a Mad Magazine cartoon about a very heavy phone for exercise-- this was about 45 years ago.

Being a cartoon, it was just a heavy phone rather than a solution as elegant as a dumbbell.

I recommend the third section (Laputa or the
Whore)of Swift's "Gulliver's Travels," in which
the satirist glances at the most absurd dreams
of inventors (projectors, as they were called).
It should be pointed out, however, that Swift
was taking aim at the relatively new Royal
Society, which helped advance real science..

Claggins is partly right. The word 'chin' 珍 is probably a short form of 珍奇, which means a 'curiosity,' 'rarity' or 'rareness.' The element 道具 ('dougu' with long first syllable as he noted) is the standard word for 'tool.' I don't know if the kanji will come through on this site, so if you read garbage, they started out as kanji. The approximate translation is obvious.

I first heard about Chindogu from an ez saver coupon, and I remember noticing an absurdly complicated tool used for slicing cheese in particular enjoyable patterns. Since then I've been a great fan of Japanese gadgets.

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