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4 Japanese Concepts that Changed Us

MottainaiToo Good to Waste


This word is used not just for food or cloths but people as well.

To paraphrase Chuzaboro Tanaka, an ethnologist who dedicated his life to discovering ordinary beauty:

“I spent my childhood with my grandmother who often told me

“When we die, we go to the mountains. That’s why a shroud has to be made of hemp. Hemp is planted from our soils and for that reason, it returns to that soil easily.

Fabric or cloth is something that protects your body. You cannot waste even a bit. It is too good to waste.”

Those were her phrases. I heard the word Mottainai too many times from her.

She meant it for things, time, people, and even for relationships we build.

We should remember once again that we are surrounded physically and mentally with a lot of potential Mottainai too good to waste things, and it is about time to embrace them now.”

Mono no aware - The Pathos of Things


This concept describes having empathy towards things and their inevitable passing; a keen awareness of impermanence accompanied with a gentle, wistful sadness that their disappearance is the reality of life.

Acknowledgement of the passing of time, along with the importance of memory as a conduit to the past and future are also part of this idea.

Yo-u no biThe Beauty of Practicality, Perfected Simplicity and Sophistication


Read about this on a post on visiting the Boro exhibit at the AMUSE Museum in Tokyo.

Wabi sabi – The Beauty of Imperfection image

A Japanese aesthetic and worldview accepting transience and imperfection, embracing a beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. 

Derived from Buddhist teachings, its central tenets are around asymmetry, simplicity, asperity, and appreciation of the inherent integrity of natural objects and materials.