It is the year 2000. You run the Japanese division of one of the world’s biggest lingerie brands, and are looking for an original way to promote your company – and your country – on the world stage. What do you do? Well, if your company is Triumph International, you begin launching concept bras like last week’s Frozen-inspired sisterhood bra – amazing and ridiculous underwear guaranteed to push the world’s ‘WTF Japan’ buttons.

We can see in Triumph’s creations the Japanese art of ‘chindogu’, inventions that, while they appear to solve a particular problem, are simultaneously useful and useless. Join us as we rifle through the underwear drawer for 21 of the best!

Chindogu (珍道具) is the Japanese art of inventing gadgets that, while designed to fix a specific problem, have no real utility. A tie with pockets in it, a neck guard for eating ramen, or a hat that asks other commuters to wake you up at your station. These are all chindogu. They are not exactly useless: they are merely un-useful.


Launched twice a year, Triumph’s concept bras are themed to reflect current trends and issues (it’s like Word of the Year, but with underwear). And I believe they encapsulate this Japanese spirit of chindogu. The bras may look like jokes, but Triumph aren’t kidding around: as the incredible level of detail in the press releases shows, they take these projects very seriously indeed.

1. My Rice Field Bra

Like all chindogu, this is “not exactly useful, but somehow not altogether useless”. The two bra cups fit together to make a planter, which you can use to grow rice in! The belt doubles up as a hose, and the outfit comes with real rice plants in a test-tube waist holster.


2. Nice Cup in Bra

Made in 2009 to commemorate growing numbers of women golfers, this corset rolls out to make a 1.5m-long putting mat complete with speakers that shout “Nice shot!” when you sink a putt. The skirt also functions as a flag telling the crowd to mind their manners.


3. Judicial Reform Bra

To mark the reform of Japan’s citizen judge system, and because nothing says ‘useful’ like a product with double utility, 2009’s bra also functions as a pair of scales! You can’t see it in this picture, but she also has the word 平等 (“equality; impartiality”) written on her bum.


4. Marriage-Hunting Bra

Features a light-up sign telling the world you’re on the hunt for a husband; and a countdown to your personal deadline day. And when an engagement ring is inserted into the mechanism, Mendelssohn’s wedding march starts playing. And then you can start doing the success kid pose like this lady.


5. No More Plastic Bags Bra

Do your bit for the environment with this bra that converts into a reusable shopping bag! Also comes with a coin purse alerting other shoppers to your anti-plastic-bag stance.


6. Welcome to Japan Bra

Inspired by the uniforms of Japanese tour bus guides, the front pocket of this outfit contains photos of key tourist locations in Japan. And when you push the gold buttons, this bra gives welcome greetings in three different languages. (Presumably not true for all Japanese tour guides’ uniforms.)


▼ The ‘Welcome to Japan’ skirt is reversible and features this map of Japan, complete with movable icons to help you with your travel planning.

7. Eco-Globe Bra

The cups on this bra can also be joined together to make a globe that fits in the palm of your hand! Make sure you take it off first, though, yeah? It’s made from a fully biodegradable corn-based material, too.


8. Anti-Smoking Manifesto Bra

Which contains a tiny vial of lavender to ease smoking cravings. Think of it as the opposite of hiding a box of cigarettes in your bra!


9. My Chopsticks Bra

Personally, I think the 2007 chopsticks bra is Triumph’s most brilliant un-useless invention yet! The two cups are for rice and miso soup; between them lies a removable chopsticks rest; and tucked into the bra on either side are fold-out chopsticks. Designed as a follow-up to the No More Plastic Bags Bra, this one encourages the use of non-disposable chopsticks.


10. Solar Power Bra

Coming hot off the heels of the chopsticks bra is another ‘eco-friendly’ venture, this time featuring a solar panel and a little screen to display (pro-environmental?) messages. Oh, and the refillable pads double up as drink holders, to cut down on the use of plastic bottles.


11.  Close Sisters Bra

Triumph’s concept product for Winter 2014 combines the aesthetics of a certain snow-queen movie that’s taken Japan by storm, with snazzy colour-changing technology. But you know that already, didn’t you, because your Google alert for “WTF Japan bras” directed you to our write-up of it last week.


12.  Economic Stimulus Bra

One of the earliest Triumph concept bras from way back in the year 2000, this was made entirely from washi paper – yep, it’s 100% paper – and decorated with the newly-released 2,000 yen note design.


13.  Stop the Declining Birthrate Bra

Illustrates Japan’s declining population with embroidered cartoons of children and elderly people in 2006 (left) and a projection for 2030 (right). The fabric used is baby towelling. Because every woman loves to feel like she’s wearing a sexy babygrow.


14.  Voter Turnout Up! Bra

The skirt is made of yupo paper, the waterproof, durable ‘paper alternative’ used to make ballot papers in Japan. Fun fact: Japanese ballot boxes are actually silver like this, too.


15.  Nadeshiko Go! Bra

Nadeshiko‘ is a delicate pink carnation and a symbol of traditional Japanese feminine beauty as well as the nickname of the Japan women’s national football team. As well as being the year Japan won the women’s World Cup, 2011 was also the year Triumph decided that two underwear models is better than one!

▼ The panties double up as a Japanese flag, providing you always stand like this and don’t move too much.


16.  Women’s Revolution Bra

In collaboration with women working in male-dominated industries, the Women’s Revolution Bra features metalwork by foundrywoman Yuko Sugihara and blacksmith Yuki Okamoto. Inside the two square metal frames are designs based on the kanji characters of the word ishin (維新) meaning restoration or revolution.

▼  And it’s got flowers on, because some women like flowers as well as metal.


17.  Omotenashi Compact Bra

Taking inspiration from last year’s buzzword ‘omotenashi‘, the Japanese spirit of hospitality, this bra contains an o-shibori hand towel hidden inside, so you are always prepared for unexpected guests.

▼ The Japanese spirit of hospitality: “Here, have this hand towel I’ve been keeping in my bra for you!”

18.  Super Cool Bra

Which has fishbowl-shaped gel cups that can be stored in the freezer to keep you cool in the hot Japanese summer, and bottoms that double up as a bamboo screen and miniature mosquito net.


19.  Branomics Bra

Taking inspiration from “Abenomics” policy, 2013’s Branomics Bra included special “2 percent pads” to increase bust size in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promised boost in GDP.


20.  Brazil Passion Bra

Summer 2014’s concept aimed to bring ‘the passion and positivity of Brazilian women’ to Japan with this Carnival-inspired design. Hidden inside the bra cups are coffee-bean-shaped pads, and inside the skirt are booty-boosting pads shaped like soccer balls. No, really.


And last but not least…

21.  21st-Century Bra Glasses

These bra-shaped glasses made of lace, launched in the year 2000, which politicians were invited to use ‘to peek into the future’.

Like all true chindogu products, Triumph’s concept bras are not for sale – although design and prototyping typically takes three to six months. But isn’t there something incredibly charming about a huge multinational company choosing to advertise itself in this way? We raise our hat to you, Triumph, and here’s to the next 15 years!

Sources: Triumph International JP, Chindogu (1, 2)
Images: Triumph International JPtales of interest/just something
Featured image: Triumph International JP