When I was in elementary school, a girl in my carpool was featured on an episode of a classic Nickelodeon game show, Figure It Out! A kid would come in with an invention and a panel of judges would have to guess what it was, like a whimsical, more pointless version of Shark Tank. The girl I knew had invented a self-cooling soup spoon by taping a miniature fan to a spoon. Keenan Thompson guessed it. I was disgustingly jealous. But when that pure, self-evidencing spirit of invention meets sophisticated design, you get the Chindōgu movement.
Does a friend keep asking you to scratch their back? Give them a Back Scratcher's T-Shirt with a mini T-Shirt cheat sheet that makes it much quicker & easier for you to hit the right spot. Kenji Kawakami - Back Scratcher's T-Shirt. Chindogu: Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets. // #kenjikawakami #chindogu
Chindōgu has been around for years—the movement's founder, Kenji Kawakami, published its central tenets back in 2000—but it's currently undergoing somewhat of a renaissance on Instagram. In a society that's read every issue of Sky Mall cover to cover, there's something undeniably pleasing about absurdly practical inventions, especially when mixed with a clean, post-modern Toilet Paper-esque aesthetic.
When it comes to invention these days, as the stale saying goes, there's an app for that: everything from insomnia to laziness to loneliness possesses a purported cure within the confines of the app store. While the satisfaction flirting on a dating app or listening to an educational podcast provides is tangible, it's often fleeting. If the app tracking your meditation progress is accidentally deleted, does the higher consciousness you attained disappear with it? The rift between IRL problems and solutions that require a wi-fi connection can be somewhat problematic and it explains, for me, why Chindōgu is so comforting.
Chindōgu is a reminder that innovation exists outside of the back-end, that even though technology evolves so rapidly humans aren't—and maybe they don't have to. Unlike the products available for purchase in SkyMall, Chindōgu's tenets situate its inventions on a higher plane. You're not allowed to sell or purchase Chindōgu ("even as a joke") and they must not "favor one race or religion over another." Kawakami fans eschew cheap, trademarked jokes like the Shake Weight, and they would probably applaud my old carpool friend's self-cooling soup spoon (in fact, she may have ripped it from Kawakami directly), because Facebook tells me she never really tried to make a career out of it. Chindōgu isn't here to save you, personally, but rather stimulate our collective societal imagination. When did SkyMall ever try to change the world?