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In the past few months the Japanese word mottainai, which conveys a sense of regret over waste, has begun to spread into the Western world. While Japan is ahead of the game in terms of conservation in many ways, the concept of mottainai can be seen most clearly in every bowl of rice. YouTube vlogger Kanadajin3 shares how in her vlog, “Gaijin Tip #16- Eat all your rice in Japan,” explaining Japan’s cultural relationship with rice.

▼ “It’s important for you to eat every last grain!”

In Japan, “eating all your rice” doesn’t mean eat all of the big chunks of rice and leave behind the few grains you can’t quite get with your chopsticks; it means eat every last grain. This is emphasized by a saying often told to children (and unknowing foreigners), “Every grain of rice has seven fortune gods,” so you better not disrespect them by not eating them all!

The saying and the concept itself encompass the ideas of respecting the farmers and resources that made the rice and that there are people in our world that don’t have any rice to eat.

▼ Make sure to eat those last 2-3 grains, otherwise there may be 14-21 gods after you!

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As Kanadajin3 also noted, in Japanese culture, when visiting a friend’s house, it’s especially important to eat all of your rice. Not doing so is considered rude, because not only would you be disrespecting the gods, but you’d also be disrespecting the person who took the time to cook it for you. So, either take a smaller portion from the start and get seconds as needed, or just be ready to stuff yourself silly.

Restaurants are a bit of a different story, as you are not in control of the portions and taking leftovers home isn’t really something they do in Japan. While it is acceptable to leave food on your plate, it’s still not ideal.

▼ Make sure you get everything from the rice cooker too!

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Though Japan has a strong culture of not wasting and of eating every last grain of rice, we do feel it’s important to point out that nothing is perfect, and wasting can still be found throughout the country. Japan has plenty of all-you-can-eat restaurants and convenience stores that end up tossing leftover food at the end of the day. There is non-food wasting going on too, like excessive plastic packaging on food and goods, despite the strong push for “my bag” reusable grocery bags.

Again, no country is perfect, but with the cultural connection to not wasting even a grain of rice and the deeply ingrained (pun intended) phrase mottainai, Japan is in a good place to continue toward waste reduction and helping other countries on the path of conservation, as well.

Source: YouTube/kanadajin3 via All-Nationz
Images: Screenshots from YouTube/kanadajin3