“Mottainai” is a Japanese word that describes a situation in which something that's still usable or valuable is about to be thrown away. People in Japan used to care about conserving their belongings so much that it once became their habit to say “Mottainai”, but what is happening today?
This article is going to introduce the situation in Japan where “Mottainai” is starting to lose its nature, and how “Mottainai” is being appreciated in the rest of the world on the other hand.
What is Japanese “Mottainai” spirit that Japan should be very proud of?
“Mottainai” was originally a Buddhism word. This word started to spread across Japan in the Edo era, especially during the three major famines (Kyoho, Tenmei, and Tenpo Famine). The common people in the Edo started conserving their foods so they could survive.
“This is still edible. Too good to throw away.”
Situations like those famines had helped people to obtain the “Mottainai” spirit. Eventually, the definition of “Mottainai” spirit became more broad and people started recognizing it as a spirit to increase efficiency by minimizing wastage in any circumstance, and they started applying the spirit to many other situations or actions in addition to how they treated foods.
“Mottainai” is a global common language nowadays
A Japanese word “Mottainai” now has an alphabetical form “MOTTAINAI”, and it’s known as a global common language today. Wangari Maathai was the key person who made this word widely known all over the world.
She was also known as the first person in Environmental science to win the Nobel Prize. Even today, populations in some nations in Africa are still suffering from hunger, and an introduction of the “MOTTAINAI” spirit can help them to be more aware of the importance of conserving foods by not wasting a single bit of edible parts of already scarce food. In other words, the “MOTTAINAI” is a new way of thinking that can reduce the number of people who die from hunger.
Japan is running counter to the “Mottainai” today
Although “Mottainai” has been spreading all over the world, Japan is going backwards at a high speed by wasting about 6 million tons of food every year.
For example, lunch boxes or rice balls sold at convenience stores are required by Food Sanitation Law to be thrown out once they pass the best before date, and that is causing tons of food waste. Back In the Showa era, people used to give away foods with expired best before date for free (But today, in the Reiwa era, we hardly find these being given away). The Japanese society has been making efforts to reduce the food waste, but we are yet to see a significant improvement.
So, have people in Japan lost their “MOTTAINAI” spirit?
A Japanese word “Mottainai” has now become a global common language “MOTTAINAI”. However, the Japanese society is going completely against the current by wasting tons of food every year, despite the fact that this valuable “MOTTAINAI”spirit, which originates in the Edo era, has been spreading all over the world recently.
The fact that Japan has become a wealthy country might be the reason why the “MOTTAINAI” spirit has been losing presence here, but there should still be a chance for Japan to come back as the pioneer of the “MOTTAINAI” spirit and lead the world if the Japanese society manages to come up with successful solutions for the food waste.