Rube Goldberg meets Japan: The bizarre Japanese art of Chindogu

“If you’re not thinking about Japan every day,” popular blogger Tyler Cowen likes to say, “you’ve yet to wake up.”

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. It’s Rube Goldberg meets Japan.

And Chindogu, like just about everything else, has developed a cult following on the internet. 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.

Here are a few of the most creative examples of Chindogu…

The Solar-Powered Lighter (above)

Tired of running out of fluid in your lighter? Fed up with wet matches that won’t make a spark? Now there’s a better, greener way to light your cigarette– with the solar-powered Chindogu lighter. (Note: May not work at night, or on cloudy days, or at all.)

More examples below the fold…

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.

The Chopstick Fan

There’s nothing like a warm bowl of ramen to make all your problems disappear. But when the noodles and broth are scalding hot, you’re just asking for trouble. Fortunately, some of the most creative minds in Japan have come up with the solution:

The Grid-Backed Shirt

Finally, we all know how difficult it is to tell your partner exactly where your back itches. “A little to the left– no, too far. Wait, higher, no, lower…” Enough!

With the Grid-Backed Shirt, you’ll be able to tell your partner the precise location of even your most obstinate itches. Just imagine the efficiency of directing your significant other that you’d like “four scratches in D-7, please.”

Ahh, that feels good.

For more mostly useless but always hilarious Chindogu inventions, go here.

For more from Japan, dig into Gadling’s archives and check out Matt Firestone’s excellent series Big in Japan.