You are going to read an article about unusual inventions. The final sentence of each paragraph has been removed from the article. Choose from the sentences (AG) the one which fits each gap (16). There is one extra sentence that you do not need to use. For each of the remaining questions, choose the answer which you think fits best according to the text.

Scientists, inventors, and designers have been registering their ideas with the world’s patent offices for more than 150 years, and many of their greatest inventions have shaped the modern world and the way we live in it. Can you imagine, for example, life without the internal combustion engine, the television, or the mobile phone? Unless you’re living in a cave in the middle of nowhere, the chances are that your answer will be a resounding ‘No way!’

However, head for Japan, and you might come across some inventions that have never enriched, nor indeed will ever enrich your life. Take, for example, the technological wonder that is the electric revolving fork. Stick the end of this into a bowl of noodles or pasta, press a button and watch the prongs rotate, collecting the slippery food as they do and thus saving you the inconvenience of turning the cutlery yourself. Then there’s the ‘drymobile’. Basically, this is a clothes rack that you attach to the roof of your car: after doing the washing, hang your wet clothes on it, go for a drive and, ten minutes later, your trousers and shirts are ready to wear. Or how about duster slippers for the cat? (1)

These and about 500 other unlikely devices form part of a Japanese concept known as Chindogu, the art of inventing everyday gadgets that, on the face of it, seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem. Literally translated, Chindogu means ‘unusual tool’. (2)

Unlike other, more practical inventions, however, Chindogu has a distinctive built-in feature: anyone actually attempting to use one of these inventions would find that it causes so many new problems, or such significant embarrassment, that effectively it has no utility whatsoever. (3)

Take, for example, the noodle fork. As demonstrated by Kawakami himself, it does a wonderful job of picking up noodles. However, in the process, the user is sprayed with sauce, meat, and other detritus which flies off the rapidly revolving prongs. Then there’s the drymobile: provided it doesn’t rain, it does get some of the dampness out of your clothes. Unfortunately, you get back home to discover that half of them have blown away, and what remains is dirtier than ever. And what about those cat slippers? (4)

According to Kawakami, there are several key tenets to bear in mind when designing a Chindogu. Principally, it has to be possible to make, and indeed must have been made, in spite of its absurdity, and it has to remain in the public domain (i.e. it cannot be given a patent). (5)

There is frequently humour in a Chindogu, of course, but this should properly be regarded as incidental, rather than as an end in itself. And in spite of the stipulation that Chindogu should not be used for satirical ends, Kawakami himself does appear to regard them as a kind of antidote to consumerism and the Western obsession with making life as easy as possible. (6)

People have related to Chindogu so much that there is a huge following worldwide, with Chindogu societies in many countries. Members make and submit their own designs for the appreciation of their fellows. In Europe it has even been heralded as a unique form of art. One might wish to design Chindogu for a number of reasons. For example, to improve one’s mental sharpness, to develop them as an art form, or simply to revel in a purely creative act without having to worry about utility or making money. Kawakami himself treats it as a mental discipline which helps to hone his creativity for sales promotion and marketing consultation.


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