The non-profit organization Mottainai Japan’s motto is, “In the spirit of mottainai, we continually give back to society.” The policy of selfishly wasting your enemies’ petroleum to keep up an alienated consumer lifestyle to profit global capital is over. Getting back to nature is in, and looking to Japan’s culture of Mottainai shows the way!
It’s time to cherish the natural order. We are to be stewards of the earth, not exploiters and tyrants. I’ve been getting rid of my stuff since 2010 when I left my home state of 38 years, Colorado and moved my two kids to Buenos Aires. I had a heads up on this present economic mess for a variety of reasons, one of them being that my father was a WWII camp survivor. I ”Yoga Homeschooled” my kids, and they learned to bake bread, cook from scratch, knit, Spanish and more. We were into the Japanese concept of mottainai and we didn’t even know it. Author Hitoshi Chiba described mottainai as follows:
We often hear in Japan the expression ‘mottainai’, which loosely means ‘wasteful’ but in its full sense conveys a feeling of awe and appreciation for the gifts of nature or the sincere conduct of other people. There is a trait among Japanese people to try to use something for its entire effective life or continue to use it by repairing it. In this caring culture, people will endeavor to find new homes for possessions they no longer need. The ‘mottainai’ principle extends to the dinner table, where many consider it rude to leave even a single grain of rice in the bowl. The concern is that this traditional trait may be lost.
Katō Totsudō identifies purportedly core Japanese personality traits of aversion to wastefulness mottainai: 勿体無い, gratitude arigatai: 有難い, and sympathy ki no doku: 気の毒, with the Three Mental Attitudes of laity set forth in the Upāsaka–śīla sūtra the mind of poverty hinkyūshin:貧窮心 the mind of requiring blessings hōonshin:報恩心 and the mind of merit kudokushin:功徳心. 無駄 Muda = waste
Now with supply shortages looming because of the war in Ukraine, people are getting serious about adapting their lifestyles, and for good reason. Covid got everybody baking bread and gardening again. That’s good, as bread prices will soar along with meat. Yahoo! When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cubans got healthy by going vegan. Americans have so much to look forward to! I mean really, living simply has always been a part of my religion essentially, along with living in harmony with the earth, and a belief in a Jesus that holds a lamb, not slaughter it and the whole fucking planet to make an ever worthless buck.
An economy aligned with nature took a back seat as consumerism replaced necessities and human interaction with artificial necessities and alienated consciousness. The Tea House of the August Moon is a great story as an example.
Reconnecting to the earth via mindful consumption of less is essential for the spiritual and ecological survival of the planet and humanity. I’m auditing a Harvard EdX class called Money, Markets and Morals. Good stuff! The root word of economy comes from the Greek okonomia and means household thrift. There’s no home economics and household thrift because that would be socialist; capitalism requires individual consumption for maximum profit. I remember staying at the Osaka Hilton Hotel when we first moved to Japan. There was a new cafe going in the lobby. It was called ”My Place.” Really in Japan, it would be called ”Our Place.” But capitalism wins.
We can still care regardless. I enjoy having a conscious relationship with what I consume. In Japan, recycling was required. Japan has waaaaay too much plastic, sadly. But I enjoyed breaking down the boxes of packaging for recycling, or peel off the labels from cans and bottles. It only takes a minute. Yet in Deltona, Florida, recycling has been stopped indefinitely because people make such a careless mess of it. The same careless mess of conspicuously waste that has suddenly run out because of Russia’s war with Ukraine. Overconsumption makes people sick anyways.
Higher rates of mental disorders were the consequence of excessive wealth-seeking in consumerist nations, according to the book Affluenza. Affluenza is a psychological malaise supposedly affecting wealthy people. English-speaking nations have nearly twice as much emotional distress as mainland Europe and Japan. Affluenza is defined as “placing a high value on money, possessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame”, which was the rationale behind the increasing mental illness in English-speaking societies. He explained the greater incidence of affluenza as the result of ‘selfish capitalism’, the market liberal political governance found in English-speaking nations as compared to the less selfish capitalism pursued in mainland Europe. James asserted that societies can remove the negative consumerist effects by pursuing real needs over perceived wants, and by defining themselves as having value independent of their material possessions.
Relief from our modern alienated consciousness disguised as economy means sustainable and more meaningful lifestyles. Living in accord with nature and caring for others is Japan’s hallmark and it was well on its way to becoming a peaceful society before U.S. Commodore Perry’s black ships forced Japan open to capitalism at gunpoint. It’s a good time to drop out of society. I am! The Lying Flat movement in China is part of a global back to nature movement as well, and the Great Resignation has people questioning this antiquated and destructive economic system. After Covid, the last vestiges of this nightmare monoculture consumer economy forced on the world gives way to a caring economy. Subarashi desu!
Caring for our environment, caring for others, identifying with nature and not caring about a big house or gas-guzzling trophy car for an identity is the now! For when we go into solitude and in nature- that’s when the boons come. All that clutter of stuff distracts us from seeing the moon! Not even millennials want their grandparents’ antiques – it’s nothing but a pile of crap! Get rid of it! Recycle it, rather! Thrift is a great mindful experience of the great rewards of spiritual wealth that never end!
Here is a collection of some articles about Japan’s penchant for sustainability that the world can model. Enjoy and liberate yourself and the planet.
Articles on Sustainable Living and a Zero Waste life
Sustainability in the Edo Period– An Ecologically Conscious Society
Old Building Materials: The Ancient Capital’s Culture of Recycling
Zero Waste Life: Green Mountain Grandma
Images of Sustainable Living in Japan Ukiyo-e Prints
Turning Food Loss Regret into Gratitude
Japan’s Ancient Way to Save the Planet
The Japanese Have A Word To Help Them Be Less Wasteful
Japan’s LDP Debates On Stable Food Supply
Japan’s Food Self-Sufficiency Rate Matches Record Low
Portland’s Japanese-inspired store Kiriko Made lives by ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’
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