The Japanese have a saying, “Mottainai!”, which translates to “Waste not, want not”. In the Western world, we like to bandy about the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, and in Japan they go one better by adding “Respect” to the 3 Rs. 

Objects which have fulfilled their function and are now worn, torn or just old, are utilised in other ways. Old kimonos, for example, are cut up as rags (“Boro”) to make rugs, mats, dishcloths, etc and are thus given a new lease of life. In Western society, however, we tend to just throw old clothes away, or donate them to thrift stores, where, if they can’t be sold, they’re shipped to India or Indonesia to be converted into rags and used to fill sofa cushions, dog beds and the like. Some, however, don’t even get there but simply end up in landfills. Modern Society seems to have forgotten how to cherish what they have. Instead, the thrill of the chase lies in finding and owning the next new thing, which only then gets discarded when the Next next new thing comes along a week later. Such a sad state of affairs 😢.

Not so with the ethos of Mottainai. This article describes what Mottainai is, and how its influence is now being spread across the modern world. There’s almost a resurgence or Renaissance in the whole Think Green movement, more and more people are taking up the practice of not wasting anything that still has some life left in it. 

This website, from Wow! Japan describes in even more depth what the true meaning of Mottainai is. It goes deeper than just material goods, it also encompasses human thoughts and actions. We could all learn some valuable lessons from Mottainai. 

I’ve “borrowed” these 2 images from the Wow! Japan website, for illustrative purposes: 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s