The Japanese word Chindogu literally means an odd or distorted tool. But Kenji Kawakami has taken the word to a new level: the art of the unuseless idea. Kawakami has developed an entire philosophy around these bizarre inventions, which must work but are actually entirely impractical. Kawakami's book, "The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions", is a hilarious collection of 200 of such zany gadgets.
The gizmos inside this book are silly, ridiculous, and in the rare case, borderline practical. For example, a rack which attaches to you car for you to hang laundry. This way, you can be drying your clothes as you drive. Or how about a bib which surround your entire face (imagine something that looks like a lion's mane) so that you would no longer have to fear the splatter of slurping noodles. And of course, an idea that perfectly summarizes the concept of Chindogu - a solar powered flashlight.
One of the key reasons why this book is so entertaining is the numerous color photographs used to demonstrate each idea. To read about the concept of an invention is fine, but you can't truly appreciate how ridiculous and amusing a lot of these ideas actually are until you see them in action. For example, reading about a "Hay Fever Hat" is one thing. But it is quite another thing to see a woman wearing a roll of toilet paper on her head and draped over her face as she uses it to blow her nose.
According to the introduction inside the book, Chindogu follows strict standards. For example:
• A Chindogu cannot be for real use
• A Chindogu must exists (it must actually be created)
• Chindogu are tools for everyday life
• Chindogu are not for sale
• Chindogu cannot be patented
Despite all the rules, the whole Chindogu craze seems to be getting popular. There is an actual Chindogu society 10,000 strong (http://www.chindogu.com).
There is no story, statement, or even clean organization the this book. It is just a mish mosh of funny gadgets and inventions thrown together. So don't expect to take anything meaningful out of it. It is, however, a lot of fun to read. The inventions are well illustrated and well explained. And even if the inventions themselves don't give you a chuckle, the reasons why some of these gadgets were invented just might. Overall, I definitely recommend this book. It will surely strike up some fun conversation, and it might even inspire you to come up with your own Chindogu.