[-empyre-] "Chindogu" and re-design

Machiko Kusahara kusahara at waseda.jp
Tue Nov 24 11:03:35 EST 2009


Hi all,

As Renate introduced me in her email, I am currently in LA.

During the weekend as we cycled around in our neighborhood, my partner  
found a book "99 More  un-useless Japanese Inventions", a sequel of  
"Chindogu" at a yard sale and bought it for 50 cents. What a bargain  
price!

It is funny, because we have been recently talking about the strange  
"Japanese" inventions by this author, in relation to questions I  
almost always get when I give a presentation on Device Art, the  
project I have been working with my colleague artists and engineers.

The strange thing is that although the term "chindogu" is not part of  
our language (while we understand what it means by seeing the Chinese  
characters) it seems to be now widely accepted as a Japanese concept.

These inventions were originally introduced in English. So, until  
recently (until the author started showing up on variety shows on  
Japanese TV) almost no one in Japan knew about it.
A typical reaction of Japanese when asked about the concept from  
"foreigners" is: "What is that? I hope you don't think we are really  
using such crazy things! This is a joke!)

Recently I heard that in UK this book is widely used in design  
education, as a key concept to "re-design" things, i.e. to design  
"impossible-to-use" things.

Playfulness is a very important part of Japanese culture, but I still  
feel rather uncomfortable when I hear people praise "chindogu" as a  
representation of Japanese creativity.
Each time when asked I need to explain what are the differences  
between "chindogu" and our Device Art.
Yes, we design things that are not "practical" from coorporate point  
of view, but we are not joking.

Machiko Kusahara


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