“Mottainai!” Culture


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“Mottainai!” is a phrase in Japanese that means, “What a waste!” This phrase can be referred to when food, or things are wasted. In Japan, being frugal is ingrained into the community and the culture. Little kids are taught the importance of ecological sustainability and reducing waste, imperfect produce are turned into the main dishes at one of a kind restaurants, and old tires are transformed into designer handbags. In this article we will explore some of the sites that help make Japan the efficient and resourceful place it is.

Uoharu Restaurant

Uoharu Restaurant, located close to the Tokyo Station in the business district of Yaracucho, is a prime example of the “Mottainai” culture mentality. They create a new menu every day from the leftover and imperfect fish from the Tsukiji Market, the largest fish market in the world. This restaurant is a part of the Mottainai Project, which aims to change the image of wasted food into a commodity and increase the trend of resourcefulness to other restaurants in Japan.


When you look at their menu, you will see each each item has their imperfection listed next to it, the highlight of the dish, so to speak. Dining here serves the purpose of not only satisfying your appetite, but your conscience as well.

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Tachiten-maru is a “tachinomiya”-style (standing bar) tempura restaurant. Tachi- means standing, and Nomi means drinking. This quirky eatery has a lively atmosphere and a menu that won’t drain your wallet. According to Japan Today, The tempura fish called “Babaa” is the one to try!

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Omakase Azabujuban

Omakase Azabujubanlike Uoharu and Tachiten-maru, seeks to tackle the food waste problem in Japan but in a more expensive fashion. Being the pinnacle of exquisite and and breathtaking food presentation, Japanese restaurants place a large importance on the image of their dish. This however, leads to a lot of imperfect ingredients landing in the dumpster. Omakase takes expensive ingredients doomed for disposal and turns it into a high class dining experience.

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This place is operated by reservations only and serves Japanese-style full course menus that include high-end ingredients such as foie gras, wagyu beef, and top grade seafood. It is located in the quaint and fashionable city of Azabu Juban, just few minute’s walk away from the station.

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Mottainai Kids Flea Market

Mottainai Kids Flea Market is part of the Mottainai campaign started by the Wangari Maathai, an author and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This project aims to teach children the importance of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, and Respect. Every month, they hold a flee market where hundreds of children bring their possessions and sell and buy. This teaches them to handle money and to treat their things with care so that it can be passed on the their next owner.

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More details can be found on their website, as well as event dates.

Another one is called Mottainai Festa, and it is a part of a pair of flea markets in which one is run by adults.


SEAL brand makes handbags that are originally from scrapped tires and inner tubes. This makes the bags waterproof and durable with unique patterns and designs. They ship bags internationally and have a few location across Tokyo. Check out this shop’s top-quality handmade bags and interesting designs!

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Trunk Hotel

Trunk Hotel in Shibuya is a hip and boutique style hotel that is located in Tokyo’s youngest and most fashion-forward neighborhood in Shibuya. Their interior decoration is based on salvaged furniture and natural materials that are local to Tokyo.

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Check out the Collectionsbelow to find more information on their locations!