The Japanese word "chindogu" covers a delightful range of terrible gadgets. It's about vaguely genius concepts, ruined either in their execution or ambition. If you've seen the baby-floor-mop onesie or the upside-down umbrella for capturing rainwater, you've seen a chindogu. Yo Sushi, arguably the UK's biggest sushi chain, wanted to celebrate this ridiculous facet of Japanese culture, and invited me to embarrass myself through a selection of crapgadgets and tasting dishes.
It's a (USB-chargeable!) accessory for your chopsticks. With two propellers, it adds the gentle breeze of a handheld electric fan from your childhood.. to your food. I liked the 3D-printed finish to the gadget -- it kinda added a modern flourish to something that peaked in the '90s. So what's the aim here? No more piping-hot noodles. The problem: it's hard to handle chopsticks when one has suddenly tripled its weight. Also, by about halfway through my meal, the noodle soup had dipped below lukewarm temperature.
It's a strong, unashamedly chindogu-esque start.
Noodle Splash Guard
This plastic sleeve is meant to keep your crisp white salaryman shirt pristine. Protecting against ramen splashback, the concave collar protects as much as it embarrasses. No wait, it embarrasses way more.
Jamie Rigg, Engadget
The uselessness this time stems from the shortness of the guard: Any splash from your mouth might be captured, but dangly noodles remain a real threat to your wardrobe. Also, why does my forehead need the same protection? I've seen this chindogu before — but besides acknowledging who wore it best, it fits with the tenets: According to the Chindogu Society's official site, there're ten of them. "Chindogu are offerings to the rest of the world. They are not therefore ideas to be copyrighted, patented, collected and owned."
Now this is borderline innovative: Wasabi applied in the same way you'd use a glue stick. A quick dab on my plate of salmon nigiri sushi and I was ready to inhale them. It also offered a bit more control on how much I added, as chopsticks usually end up adding only a tiny amount. There is a question of reusability. Not sure that I want to be using this after it's been applied to untold pieces of raw fish. In that way, it satisfies tenet no. 3. It has, indeed, "broken free from the chains of usefulness."
That's toilet paper. Orange, yes, but nonetheless TP. Beside the "napkin" function that's meant to go with a pumpkin tonkatsu curry dish, there're definitely applications for this involving allergies or weepy movies.
It's peak chindogu for me: As soon as some paper rolls down, my vision is obscured almost entirely, pretty much a sure-fire way for me to make mess and need said napkins. This is also definitely more embarrassing than the splash guard.
Yo Sushi knows its chindogu range is just, well, stupid, and is embracing the foolishness at two branches in London, and another one in Newcastle. Chindogu never really disappeared in Japan: check out Thanko if you're in the market for something that is a borderline functional chindogu.
I can't deny that does add a touch of fun to dining. Yo Sushi is fielding the gadget for a week, and customers will get a specific 'tool' if they order certain dishes. You won't be able to take the chindogu home with you afterwards however -- or even buy one. Which, in nice way, reaffirms their status. As the fifth tenet of the Chindogu society says: "They must not even be sold. Even as a joke."
Jamie Rigg contributed to this report.