By Logan Hesse

Chindogu (n.): the Japanese art and hobby of creating “unuseless” inventions; also, the inventions themselves. They’re called “unuseless” because they solve problems so awkwardly that they’re pretty much pointless. Some of the better-known Chindogu are the all-day tissue dispenser (basically a roll of toilet paper mounted on a hat), the umbrella tie, and the back-scratching T-shirt (which has a Battleship-style grid so you can tell someone exactly where it itches). Such a perfect storm of cleverness and weirdness could come only from Japan. Having said that, we San Franciscans are experts in pointlessness too (just ask anyone who works for a startup intent on creating yet another social network). And if we didn’t come up with it first, we’ll damn well steal it and make it our own. So in the spirit of play and anarchy, here are a few Chindogu to solve some of the most pressing San Francisco problems (but not really).


You know the scene: it’s 7:30 a.m., and you’ve managed to drink your keys and forget your coffee as you trudge to the bus stop. Muni finally rocks up, doors opening in the exact spot you’re waiting – just as your place in line gets overrun by high school students and ancient grandmothers. Instead of getting a marginally comfortable seat, you’re now playing “ass or crotch” with the seated passenger in front of you. The portable velvet rope, encased in a single tube (the halves of which double as stanchions) tells the whole world that you were here first. It’s also useful at nightclubs on Mondays so you can feel like a VIP, even when there’s no cover, line, or bouncer.


Not every innovation we come up with is as welcome as others. Google Glass is a perfect example. Nothing says, “I’m really interested in our conversation and am not a self-absorbed douche,” like having one eye on the Internet at all times. Fortunately, the counter is simple: a visor that features a one-way mirror that flips down whenever you find yourself talking to a Glasshole. This handy and multifunctional device allows you to simultaneously prevent yourself from being photographed or filmed against your will while showing the early adopter exactly how ridiculous they look. Win-win.


Walking down the street in San Francisco is an activity fraught with hazards, and not just from cyclists who treat road laws as guidelines. The prevalence of dogs and a lack of public restrooms means that most sidewalks, especially in the central neighborhoods, require industrial 10-inch rubber soles. The solution to dodging the biohazards without missing the scenery? This set of angled mirrors clips onto the bottom of your glasses, allowing you to soak in the scenery while avoiding the leavings of the city’s less-housebroken denizens, whether they walk on two legs or four.


Overcrowding on Muni doesn’t stop at boarding. How many times have you spotted a vacant seat at the back (cue choir of angels) only to discover that it’s empty due to some unidentifiable but definitely biological liquid? You look at your newspaper and weigh its potential absorbency vs. your commute time. Spare yourself the mental calculus with the Butt Sponge. Simply tie it around your waist and take a load off. The plastic backing insulates your pants from Mystery Liquid, and with a little scooting around, you leave the seat in pristine condition for the next traveler.


So you’re at a networking event. You meet a cute social media intern, and you two are clearly a trending topic. You go to get their contact details for a little more f2 (emphasis on the “f”), except you’re still rocking an iPhone 4s (hey, times are tough). As soon as you whip it out, they ask if you’re still on MySpace before they vanish like a Peter Shih blog post. Avoid the embarrassment without shelling out the cash with the iPhone extender case. It fits over an older iPhone to make it look like the latest model It's pretty much the same as the iPhone 5 series anyway: the only functionality that it adds is not being able to fit in your pocket.


Between June and October, the quality of the weather in San Francisco is about as predictable as a Tim Lincecum start: sometimes brilliant, sometimes awful, and likely to go from one to the other in a heartbeat. This scarf has you covered in case your sunny day gets pulled in the bottom of the third. When the weather goes from cold to warm, it unfolds to act as a picnic blanket. And to help on chillier days, the fiber is soaked in saltwater so when the scarf is wrapped around your face, the smell of the sea reminds you that it’s warm…somewhere.


A free parking space on the wrong side of the street is like a lap dancer: both tempting and cruel in its proximity. You know there’s no way you can make it around the block before someone snags the spot out from under you. That is, of course, unless you disguise the space as a crime scene. Simply throw the portable chalk outline down in front of it, and watch everyone scramble to avoid contaminating the police investigation. You can also carry it with you to overcrowded apartment viewings – subtly toss it in the bedroom, and watch your competition scurry out the door.


We love our sports teams in the Bay. Just which one we love at any given time can be complicated. We are a city that expects the best, and with so many teams to choose from, when one falls (cough, cough, Giants, cough, cough), we can pick up the slack with another one. The Fair-Weather Fan Hat spares you cost and indignity at the same time. Rather than having a single constraining logo, this hat comes with a metal strip and an assortment of refrigerator magnets, allowing to you walk into the bathroom as a die-hard Giants fan and walk out sporting your A’s pride.

Got any more bright ideas? Show off your Chindogu chops in the comments section.