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The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions Paperback – April 17, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393326764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393326765
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Kenji Kawakami is the inventor of the concept of Chindogu and the founder of the 10,000-member International Chindogu Society.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a celebrity chef, television personality, journalist, food writer, and "real food" campaigner. He promotes a back-to-basics philosophy with regards to cooking.

Dan Papia is a translator. He also heads the chapter of the International Chindogu Society based in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This book is a lot of fun!
Eileen Rieback
Very interesting and amusing, this book is a plethora of innovative, bold and yes, silly, ideas.
We gave it out as a Christmas gift to friends and they all got a great kick out of it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Norman Sperling on February 19, 2006
I wrote and published this review in The Journal of Irreproducible Results, vol. 49, no. 6, November 2005:

Rube Goldberg founded the modern era of humorous inventions in the US, and Heath Robinson did the same in the UK, in the first half of the 1900s. Even now, "Rube Goldberg contraptions" call to mind not only his cartooning style but his inventive wit.

The genre simplified and expanded with Jacques Carelman's The Catalogue of Fantastic Inventions (St. Martins, 1984), and Steven M. Johnson's What the World Needs Now (Ten Speed, 2001). David E. H. Jones takes a decidedly more scientific, less cartooned approach in The Inventions of Dædalus (Freeman, 1982) and The Further Inventions of Dædalus (Oxford University Press, 1999).

When the genre twisted and turned to Japan, it developed into Chindogu. If a humorous invention serves a real, everyday purpose ... but not well; if it is actually made and photographed; if its humor is a byproduct of solving a problem ... then it may be "chindogu". See [...] A bento box is a multi-purpose lunchbox, but that concept is the merest appetizer for these.

200 inventions fill 300 pages in this charming full-color compendium. Many are in classes by themselves, such as the nail-polish dryer for 5 fingers at once. But certain issues recur:

* Attach mops to crawling babies, pets, and shoes.

* Portable signage allows you to unroll a zebra-crosswalk at a convenient place in the road; to put a women's-restroom sign over a men's; and to mark parking space lines around your car, wherever you leave it.

* An extra hand can cover your mouth politely; hold veggies perilously close to a cutting knife; and even help count fingers.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 27, 2005
I took one look at this amusing book and immediately understood why only the Japanese would revel in these wacky inventions which they call "chindogu". As a Japanese-American myself, I understand the high value placed on self-sufficiency and time-efficiency in their daily existences. After all, these are the people who came up with sleeping tubes and subway passenger pushers. Designer and author Kenji Kawakami and translator Dan Papia promote 200 of these funky devices that range from the conceivably helpful to the hysterically absurd. The humor comes from not only the devices but also the straight-faced photos of the devices in action and the accompanying text that captures the pure huckster cheese of an airline mail-order magazine. Kawakami provides the top ten tenets of chindogu to set the stage for what follows. He considers a chindogu a failure if it is slightly useful, a success if it captures the spirit of anarchy. They cannot be invented simply for humor. They must exist as a prototype but never be patented or sold. Kawakami understands that there is no gadget so unuseless that somebody out there would not buy it if offered, and in this regard, the Japanese have shown more discretion than Americans who would submit their patent applications on a dime.

Expect to giggle quite a bit perusing this book, and here are a few of my particular favorites:
* Diet dishes - rice bowls cut in half with a mirror inserted to make them seem like full bowls, marketed with the tagline "Satisfy your hunger with a culinary optical illusion".
* Portable subway straps - straps hung on a suction cup that you would place on the ceiling of a particularly crowded subway car. I could easily see using this on BART during rush hour.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Rieback on April 16, 2005
When my daughter invented a biofeedback-based antisnoring device (a stethoscope-like device with ear pieces and a sound-gathering tube taped beneath the nose) for a high school science fair, little did I realize that she had practiced Chindogu, or the art of creating an object that sounds useful and that almost satisfies a need... except for the fact that it fails in some essential way. Author Kenji Kawakami, whose International Chindogu Society promotes this wonderfully wacky art form, has compiled "The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions" to celebrate the best of Chindogu.

Each of the 200 inventions includes a description and one or more color photographs of someone modeling or demonstrating the product. How can I begin to list the many types of devices found in this off-the-wall collection? There are many items of apparel ranging from a backscratcher's T-shirt with an itch grid ("Could you please scratch my back at F6?") to training high heels with stabilizer wheels. For the workaholics, there are an office tie and tool belt, each with handy compartments to hold business cards, a calculator, telephone, pens, and other office essentials. There are many umbrella devices, such as the full-body umbrella, an umbrella golf club, and shoe umbrellas to avoid nasty rain puddle splashes. For dieters there are a magnifying fork and dishes that hold half the food they seem to through the use of mirrors. For the handyman there are Swiss army gloves and lawn mower sandals. For the water hater there's a bath body suit to keep you dry no matter how long you soak in the tub. For the claustrophobe, there are wide-angle glasses to make that cramped apartment look roomy.
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