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Learning Article : The Significance Of The Japanese Word Mottainai


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The Significance Of The Japanese Word Mottainai

Have you ever heard the common Japanese phrase もったいない mottainai? I find myself using it almost every day. It is very important and if you haven’t yet heard this expression, we will learn about it in this article...




It is a good but very difficult expression to translate it to Russian. In each example that you told it we use different expressions.

Небережливо, расточительно, не заслуженный, не достойный etc.

My mother told to my daughter when she broke a new good pen "Надолго ль собаке блин!". 


I liked this article a lot.  Could you put hiragana for the kanji, though, please and thank you?  Very interesting in-depth explanation of a word I've heard before but didn't realise was so full of other meanings.


Thank you for your comment ! I put hiragana.



りょうり     のこ


「病院で  2時間も待った。時間がもったいない」

びょういん じかん ま    じかん


こんな素敵な人、あなたには もったいない

    すてき ひと

たいしたことないのに、彼はいつももったいぶって (もったいつけて) 話す。


              かれ                         はな


:)  Thank you...

In English, we have a similar phrase: waste not want not. However, this is used just for material things and does not have the depth of meaning of もったいない。It means to only want or take what you can use.


"Waste not, want not" came to mind for me as well. My interpretation of that phrase is that if we are wasteful now then later we will find ourselves in scarcity and regret our former actions. To sum it up - "Be wise with the resources you have." It doesn't have the flexibility to application that もったいない has but does fit the situation the Syrian children had.




We use the word waste in various ways to convert some these same ideas. "Such a nice gift would be wasted on me." and such, but not quite the same depth of meaning as the Japanese word.


I can't help but think about things in Japan like waribashi, the massive amount of bottled water purchased due to minor flavor differences in perfectly safe and healthy tap water, the use of tsukaesute oshibiri, multiple layers of packaging you have to go through just to get to the individually wrapped items inside, etc. there is an awful lot of waste that much of society never thinks twice about.


Children around the world die every day due to lack of clean drinking water yet we go to the nearest jihanki and grab a bottle of mineral water because when we drink out of the tap somewhere nantonaku tetsu no aji ga suru. Donating that money could literally save someone's life, but we are so zeitaku here that this stuff is all part of daily life and not frowned upon at all.


I know plenty of people who when they travel put bottled water into the hot water heater for the waste to put in their tea, coffee, or cup noodle because the tap water doesn't taste good enough.


I would love to see a campaign to raise awareness and make change here as well!






In English, for most situations: 

もったいない = What a waste! (a very common phrase in the US)

and all the remain situations that I'm aware of:

もったいない = X is wasted on Y


Hi  kiyomi
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