Japan‘s ancient technique of Mottainai works on the idea of respecting and valuing the resources and not wasting them at all. By Tanvi Jain


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Mottainai, an ancient Japanese way of respecting resources by recognising their value and avoiding wastage, is proving to be fruitful for the planet. The shopkeepers here use the traditional washi paper to wrap products, which can easily be reused to cover gifts or notebooks.  

The technique has been in use in Japan for centuries and encourages people to value each and every item instead of throwing it away, thereby, adding another layer of respect to the already existing reduce, reuse, and recycle mantra. 


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Mottainai strongly believes in the idea that if you value an item in the first place, there is no reason to waste it at all. The word Mottai refers to the essence of things and can be applied to everything physical in the world. It promotes the idea that objects don’t exist in isolation, and are connected to each other. Moreover, nai is a negation, which, therefore, makes the word mottainai as an expression of regret and sorrow for the loss of link between any two items. 


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It is because of practice like this that Japan despite being the single largest per-capita generator of plastic waste, has impeccably clean cities. Cleanliness and other daily tasks are considered more of a spiritual exercise in Japan – as an opportunity to practice Buddhism. This is known as the Zen version of Buddhism. Also, Japan already had Shinto before the arrival of Buddhism, which means ‘Way of the Gods’. Cleanliness lies at the heart of Shinto, and is considered godliness. 


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As mentioned earlier, the relationship between a product and a person is considered extremely important in Japanese culture. The country’s traditional repairing art of Kintsugi swears by the philosophy that nothing is ever truly broken, and as a part of this art, broken pots are repaired with seams of gold. The philosophy is also used as a metaphor for life. 

Related: Bathe In Nature’s Glory With The Japanese Philosophy Of Shinrin-Yoku