I recently attended a meeting for Japanese Women that’s held bi-annually where I live, and somebody was getting rid of some Japanese picture books. I was thrilled to snag two “Mottainai Grandma/もったいないばあさん (by Mariko Shinji)” books! I first heard about the series last year when my daughter danced the Mottainai Baachan dance at her Undoukai (Field Day). Here’s what the dance looks like (you should learn it with your kids!):
The word “mottainai/もったいない” means “wasteful” in English. The “Mottainai Grandma” appears whenever someone is about to do something wasteful, and instructs them on how to be more resourceful and responsible for the world. (You can read more about the books in English HERE… the translation is really awful though… somebody needs to use a spell-check!).
Mottainai Baachan reminds me of my mother :) We were encouraged to eat EVERYTHING on our plates. We were scolded if there was any meat left on our fish bones or grains of rice left in our bowls. We drew on the fronts and backs of paper until all the white space was filled. My mother could whip up a meal out of thin air or entertain us with activities and crafts out of materials we already had at home. These are skills that I feel not many people in the world (at least in America) have anymore! We are so spoiled with abundant food, toys, and entertainment. We waste a lot of material, food, and time.
Mottainai Grandma by Mariko Shinji
I’ve learned a lot of fun ideas from reading もったいないばあさん. For example, did you know…
- You can use every single part of a dandelion. The flower can become dandelion jello, the stem can become a whistle, the leaves can be used in a salad, and the root can be used to make coffee (I know, most of this makes me think “yuck!” but still neat to know!)
- If you are sick with a runny nose, you can stick a scallion on your nose to feel better. If you have a fever, you can wrap a slice of tofu in some cloth to cool down your forehead.
- Instead of throwing away unwanted sweaters, so can unravel it… and if you wash the yarn with hot water and lay it out to dry, the yarn will become straight and re-usable.
In addition to teaching us how to not waste “things”, Mottainai Grandma teaches us how to not waste the seasons (make art with leaves in the fall, make snow angels in the winter), how to be polite, how to make the most of your imagination, etc. The books are very entertaining to read! Does this remind you of anyone else’s mother/aunt/grandma?
If you are interested, the books are available for purchase HERE from White Rabbit Express and HERE from the Japanese American National Museum. It would be fun to own this Mottainai Baasan Karuta set, too! (Hiragana Mama is not sponsored by any of these companies).