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Sunday, March 20, 2005


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Mottainai has been already an international word.
I think that Mottainai implies 5Rs, that is, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, and Reverence for Nature. Old Japanese people have Mottainai spirit with the reverence for nature. I would like to spread this spirit all over the world.


Hi Haung
That is so correct. I do not like plastic stuff. I treid to choose paper or wood when I get it, It is not for eco reason. It is a kind of my taste, plastic is uncomfortable for me.

yes yes you know they have a crazy over wrapping for such small stuff. You are funny anyway.


I bought a towel at Tokyu Hands and they wrapped the towel in paper before putting in a plastic bag. Why do you have to wrap a towel in paper? So it doesn't break?

Also, if you buy stuff like meat in a depa-chika, (food level underneath a department store), they wrap it in foil or paper, put it in a bag, and then put that bag in a larger bag.

One time I asked the clerk to put the larger bag in an even larger bag, and she actually started to do it before I told her I was just kidding.


Hi Mari, so glad you talked about waste and recycling in this post.

My first trip to Tokyo was in April and I recall walking in the drizzle on a Saturday afternoon in one of the shopping areas.

Everyone took a plastic cover for their wet umbrellas and dumped it in the bin upon exit, walked a few steps to the next store and picked up a new plastic cover.

That April, every store was using paper carriers and when it started to rain, the store assistants wrapped each paper carrier in another see-through plastic layer.

Looking at these, I just felt there was a lot of wastage. And plastic is not environmentally friendly.


Hi Julian
Yes I think recycle make sense because I think we have to concern to is depletion of natural resources and food. It is not money issue. Even though recycle need more money to make a PET bottle, if I have to pay 5yen more each. I feel better to use recycling stuff. We can make money, but we can not make resource and nature.

Hi Robert
I agree, someone living in an industrialized nation, waste way too much! Not only waste, we destroy the earth too. To keep our food in regregiater, keep our hair nice with spray. We made big ozon hole.


Hi Julian,
Recycling (YAY! I spelled it right this time) ALWAYS makes sense, but you bring up a good point. Anytime private industry gets its grubby paws on something that benefits the whole, it seems it usually winds up benefitting a small minority with the majority picking up the tab. I think what might be needed is an attitude shift in how we regard recycling. It does not need to be costly, but it will need to be a communal effort. It is something which could be the responsiblity of each community. And recylcing is only limited by your creativity. You might be amazed to find the various ways you can get more use out of everyday waste. From things like your "run-of-the-mill" compost to new furniture and artworks. I know this because I am developing some works along this line of reasoning. The sad fact is that we...and I speak as someone living in an industrialized nation, waste way too much! We are trained to, because it is easier to sell you something new than have you make it yourself. And please dont think I have a house full of Nike hightop flowerpots, or a telephone made from tin cans...as I've stated previously. It is limited only by our imagination. The thing is, we buy things everyday that are made from recycled products (the expensive private industry kind...and you paid extra for that, and you'll pay them again when it comes time to get a new one)and we think we're getting new. Obsolescence comes with a price tag and it's one that the whole planet has to pay. You can start recycling for yourself today. Just think about it for awhile. Recycling makes sense, but how much of it are you willing to make your personal responsiblity? I think if the individual took ownership for their own consumption we might not be so quick to generate landfill. Don't you think so? Maybe that is the key to this endless sea of garbage.

Julian Morrison

Are you sure recycling makes sense? If rubbish costs more to re-process into new things, than it cost to make the first time around, then recycling can be wasteful. That is, cost in money, cost in fuel (for electricity), etc.

I find that when there is a problem with over-packaging, the real problem is that people believe rubbish disposal costs nothing. Otherwise they would demand less packaging! Does the Japanese government provide free rubbish collection, or do people have to pay a private company to collect it? In general when the government subsidizes something, you get more of it - and that includes subsidized rubbish collection.


Hi Claire
Ah you are concern to recycle issue. Sasuga!! Thank you for good information. Yes companies should be serious for nature and recycle, and consumers should watch such companies attitude.

Hi Robert
I agree with you about Hikki, Zen is consciousness, study. But Hikikomori is elusion. It is strange to compare them.

Claire (クレア)

When I did homestay, I got into the habit of asking to please not put my purchase in a bag, because I had a big bag with me anyway. You're right, Mari-san, it seems like many things in Japan comes in an individual wrapper on a plastic tray that is inside a larger package (at least in terms of food items).

At least in Japan, recycling is something that is part of everyday life. In America, it is a struggle to get recycling accepted as something that everyone does as a matter of course. When I moved from a suburb of Chicago to a suburb of Denver, I was shocked that I could not recycle as many items as I was accustomed to!

In Elmhurst, IL, I could recycle plastic types 1-6, any kind of paper (newspaper, magazines, junk mail), cardboard, steel and aluminum cans, and glass. In Thornton, CO, I could recycle only plastic types 1 and 2, newspaper, steel and aluminum cans and glass. (Type 1 plastic=PET, 2=HDPE.)

The whole "Resin Identification Code" chart is here if anyone is really interested:

There is a big scandal in the City of Chicago about the way the recycling program is run. All goods to be recycled are to be put in special blue colored garbage bags, and they are put in the same trucks as the regular gomi!

As a result, much of what was to be recycled goes to the landfill with the gomi instead. (Incinerators are not used much here because of the possibility of pollution.) All of those PET bottles that could have become nice, warm fleece garments, much of that paper that could have become tomorrow's Chicago Tribune, and so on, but it gets buried underground, where it will last forever until some space alien comes and digs it up and wonders what kind of strange beings lived here long, long ago.

There is a woman running a company that is making biodegradable corn-based plastic. I hope this company, Nature Works, becomes very successful. We all need to become less dependent upon petrochemicals, and this is a good start. These bottles will biodegrade if they are buried and cost only a little more to the manufacturer than PET bottles.

As for waste food oil, there are ways to modify diesel cars to burn used food oil. I don't know if it is allowed in Japan, but it is OK to do it in US. I've heard that the exhaust smells like fried potatoes! Restaurants usually pay for companies to dispose of their used oil, so you could probably get it for free, if you fixed your car up this way.

And then there is the problem of recycling used computers. Millions of old computers and monitors used to get shipped overseas for "recycling" and all the toxic chemicals therein would ruin peoples' health and the environment.

The time has come for all of us to stop saying 'shoganai' and start doing something about it, don't you think?


note to self..put the smack down on that right index finger..the word is "recycling". yeesh.. how many times did I mis-spell it? that's what I get for only using two fingers to convey an idea. why use two fingers when one is sufficient?... sailor moon sez.


on hikkikomori: same culture, different face. without those things you mentioned perhaps there would be alot more mass suicides? I dont think of it so much as zen stoicism as a simple desire to escape the pressures of a complicated life. It's hard to maintain a sense of self worth/dignity in a society that demands so much. We are, afterall, flawed by idealistic measures and continued exposure to those ideals leaves one feeling frustrated and anxious about their place in that type of society. As I stated before I think this will expand to become a larger social issue unless we start to realize the value of the indivual. We are the fragment trying to become the whole, but the truth is we are both. Duplicity breeds conflict....crackpot theory #248

On Mottainai: Waste management is a concept that has not been fully realized. I think most of us tend to categorize recylcling as something that someone else does. I mean..sure we wash out the containers..we dispose of them in the recyclying bins, but what happens after that? Do we even care? It is when we realize how such things may impact us directly that we begin to understand their importance. I wonder if everyone were made to recycle their own waste (and I dont mean to drop it in someone else's recycle bin...no cheating), not just giving it to someone else to recycle, but actually making use of it in a way that was beneficial, then perhaps the understanding of what we throw away on a daily basis begins to be understood. Over packaging is a problem, but that remains something that the consumer can combat by refusing to buy it. Put the message out. Get active. Things dont change unless we start promoting the awareness. Of course we could be the environmental equivalent of Hikkikomori couldn't we?

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