There’s something cathartic about watching – or even building – a functioning Rube Goldberg device. Maybe it’s because it presents a comforting visual embodiment of how the hopelessly bureaucratic machine we call society sometimes, kind of, actually does what it’s supposed to.

Whatever it is that makes them so hypnotizing, adults and kids alike in notoriously meticulous and bureaucratic Japan love Rube Goldberg machines – or Pythagorean Switch, as they’re known here – to bits. And toymaker Happinet has finally found a way to capitalize commercially on the nation’s love of re-arranging household objects into complicated marble chutes:


Behold, the actual Pythagorean Switch – a little device that raises a meaningless flag when a marble finds its way into the goal cut out of the top.

Of course, the somewhat diabolical but totally thematically-appropriate catch of this product – which sells for a whopping 1,900 yen (US$20), by the way – is that the user has to supply everything else to complete their hilarious Mouse Trap-esque Rube Goldberg machine. Insanely complex dominoes configurations? Ramps made of plywood and books? Spoons, spatulas, pulleys, strings, windup cars, those little bobbing mercury birds? That’s all on you. But the Pythagorean Switch has that little flag at the end on lockdown for you, brother.

Nevertheless, we get the appeal: kids want that satisfying flag popping up to visually represent that their machine does as advertised, plus the Pythagorean Switch even comes with a transparent plate on one side to reveal its own charmingly complicated insides. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s actually a branded replica of the device used in the long-running NHK TV spot of the same name.


The toy will apparently be available at toy retailers, online shopping stores, general goods stores, bulk retailers… basically everywhere, starting in late January.

Source/images: NariNari