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I loved our recent trip to Japan and one key takeaway for Bread 41 as we continue on our zero waste journey is the beautiful concept called Mottainai, it is deep rooted in Japanese history and is a concept that expresses regret at the idea of single use waste and the impermanence of things. Mottainai is about reusing, recycling, repairing and respect for items. Ubiquitous in daily life in Japan, mottainai has been the go-to admonishment for waste in that country for centuries, and represents a genuine connection between an item and its owner that is deeply rooted in Buddhist culture. Focussing on the essence of objects, it encourages people to look beyond our throwaway culture and value each item independently.

One of the most popular books that Japanese children read in the 90’s was a booked called Mottainai Grandma which refers to an elderly Japanese woman named Hidekichi Miyazaki, who gained international attention for her impressive athletic abilities and her commitment to the concept of mottainai.

Miyazaki was a competitive runner who began racing at the age of 92. She set several world records in the 100-meter dash for the 90- to 94-year-old age group, and continued to compete into her late 90s. Miyazaki was known for her positive attitude, her dedication to training, and her belief in the importance of not wasting resources.

In addition to her athletic achievements, Miyazaki was also a vocal advocate for reducing waste and conserving resources. She would often be seen picking up litter during her daily walks, and she was known to reuse and repurpose items rather than throwing them away.

Miyazaki passed away in 2019 at the age of 108, but her legacy continues to inspire others to adopt the values of Mottainai. Mottainai as a concept emphasizes the importance of using resources wisely and not wasting them. In Japanese culture, Mottainai is a value deeply ingrained and is often taught from a young age. Clearly we all have a lot to learn from the Japanese on this and in many other areas around waste and the creation of true value.