The Japanese are known for their unusual and innovative everyday inventions. In fact there is a word in Japanese that describes such a thing: Chindogu (珍道具 ) which is comprised of the word Chin (珍 ) meaning “curious” or “strange” and Dougu (道具 ) meaning “tool” or “device.” Why are these inventions strange? Usually, they’re considered to be useless..
What Are Chindogu Inventions?
The standard process when creating a new product is to patent your work so that nobody else can steal your ideas or profit off of them. The same is true in Japan, where intellectual property must be submitted to the Japanese Patent Office.
This applies to anyone in the world looking to protect their work in Japan. As such all IP documentation should be translated into Japanese (for foreign inventions patented in Japan, it is possible to file an initial patent in English followed by Japanese patent translation services).
However, not all inventions need a patent – enter the Chindogu.
Many Japanese innovators are known for inventing some very creative if not odd items for everyday use, known as Chindogu inventions. Generally these Chindogu inventions do not receive a patent, as they are rarely suitable nor marketable in mainstream markets.
As you may imagine, the suitability of and how marketable a product is can be subjective – so how do you know if an invention is truly a chindogu?
In fact there are several qualifications that have been set up which define what is a true Chindogu…
The Criteria For A Chindogu Invention:
- It must be something that could potentially help with a problem, but that nobody would ever buy
- It must actually exist, as in you (or the inventor) has built it
- Everyone, across all industries, must recognize it as being useless
- It’s not designed with state-of-the-art efficiency in mind
- It can’t be sold (but with nobody buying it this isn’t the biggest issue)
- It must seriously be aimed at solving a real everyday problem
- It must be made to serve a purpose, not just make a statement
- It must be “pure” (no vulgarity or disrespect can be derived from it)
- It remains in the public domain and cannot in fact be patented
- It must be for everyone – it can’t be aimed at any particular demographic in particular
That being said, there are some Chindogu that prove everybody’s assumptions wrong. Did you know that the selfie stick is in fact a former Chindogu invented in 1983 by the Japanese camera company Minolta? Today it is a patented item sold in stores worldwide.
When it was originally released in the early ’80s, the stick was sold under the product name “Extender” (エクステンダー) rather than “selfie stick” as it was later named by an American who adopted the concept.
That being said, not all Chindogu inventions are so lucky to beat the odds. Here are 10 examples of ones that didn’t quite make the cut (but that we think really should have).
10 Chindogu Inventions That Should Seriously Be Reconsidered As “Un-Suitable”
1. An Umbrella for Your Camera
It’s a fact in the photography world that overcast weather provides the best lighting when it comes to snapping scenic views – but what comes with clouds? Rain. However with a camera umbrella you can protect your equipment while still capturing that once in a lifetime shot…
2. A 360 Degree Camera Hat
Forget the panoramic setting on your phone – get the real, raw experience of taking that full shot with the 360 degree camera hat! Bonus is it looks great on everyone!
3. A Lipstick Application Guide
Anyone who wears lipstick knows the struggle involved in getting the application just right without accidentally painting your face a nice shade of red too (even so called “experts”). Struggle no more with this handy application guide!
4. A Broom and Dust Pan Slipper Attachment
For the neat freaks out there – how frustrating is it when you’re walking around your house and you notice a few small crumbs on the floor? You could risk straining something in your back by bending over to pick them up, or you could sweep them up with your toes…
5. A Fan to Cool Your Noodle Soup
Anyone who has ever eaten a bowl of ramen (or any noodle bowl for that matter) understands just how essential this fan is – especially when your hunger makes waiting for your food to cool off just not an option.
6. A Toilet Paper Hat for a Runny Nose
While you might think this is only good for a runny nose, a toilet paper hat has many uses: for instance when you’re camping and find out only on arrival that your campground is one of those “truly experience nature” places, or when you’re looking for the right mix between a statement piece and practicality for your next dinner out.
7. A Baby Mop Onesie
Practicality is the name of the game when raising a child. Besides, parents are so busy making sure their children are well cared for, fed, bathed etc. they don’t have time to get to all the daily household chores. And honestly, when was the last time your baby helped you out around the house? Well, now they can!
8. An Umbrella Tie
Carrying umbrellas in anticipation of rain is the worst – especially when you’re lugging around a briefcase for work. Now you can free up your hands, and look professional all at the same time (just be sure to pack an extra tie in case it really does rain on your way to the office).
9. A Toothbrush Finger Attachment
Easy to transport, let’s you reach all the nooks and crannies in your mouth – enough said. Next time you visit your dentist, they’ll be asking you for tips on dental hygiene.
10. A Head Support for Commuters
We have all been here – you’re sitting on the train, on your way home from a long day at work just trying to rest your eyes, and WHAM, the back of your head hits the window. Rest easy (literally) with this simple head support that utilizes everyday items (a hard hat and a plunger) to give you a comfortable head support for your quick nap.
If, like us, inspiration has struck you for the next big, global innovation just remember: protect your ideas in international markets with certified IP translation services (and don’t let it get you down if they tell you it’s un-patentable or unsuitable – you never know when you’ll be the brains behind the next selfie stick).
Want to see more Chindogu inventions? We did too – check out our previous article “10 Clever Japanese Inventions“! Thanks for the blog at Tofugu for the criteria and examples! Read more about the history behind Chindogu there!
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