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Kaho’s Japanese Corner: Natsukashi and Mottainai

This first one is a Japanese word that Mere sometimes uses. It’s “natsukashi”. I love this word. There is no one word translation in English for this word. Natsukashi (na-tsu-car without ‘r’-she) is the feeling you have when something brings you back old memories. It has a positive connotation, so it brings back fond memories which make you feel warm inside.

If you hear the 80’s music that you used to listen to all the time, what you might feel is “natsukashi” feeling.

When you visit a place you used to live (it could be as recent as a few years ago), you feel natsukashi.

You meet with your friends from high school and talk about the fun time you had together, the feeling you would have is “natsukashi”.

You find a book that you used to read when you were little, you feel “natsukashi”.

We’re leaving Okinawa in a month and I know that the beautiful blue ocean in Okinawa, city, people, music, food and even the hot summer will feel “natsukashi” in a few months.

“Mottainai (mop without ‘p’-tie-night without ‘t’) is a great word which explains the Japanese culture. It means “wasteful” and more. Japan is a country of limited resource. The Japanese, therefore, try to make the maximum use out of everything.

If you throw out some parts of vegetables that are edible, some people might say that it’s “mottainai”.

If you try to get rid of some clothes that you didn’t wear much and don’t wear any more, some would say “mottainai”.

Throwing out left over food is “mottainai”.

My 3-year-old daughter sometimes uses a lot of toilet paper and I tell her it’s “mottainai”.

Your passing an opportunity to have a great experience such as getting accepted to a great school or receiving a job offer from a good company is “mottainai” to some people.

Some people say “mottainai” to everything and end up becoming a pack rat. I don’t know what is good. If I don’t move, I could become a pack rat. The life style we have thanks to my husband’s job allows us to go over our belongings and sort through so that we only keep what we really need. Mottainai—.

Want to read more of these helpful Japanese language posts?  Check them all out HERE.


  1. Sweet!! I have a Japanese expression to describe my own attitudes towards so much of life (only strengthened by living here) – Mottainai!

    I was also thinking “nostalgia” from the get-go of Kaho’s description of Natsukashi so I’m glad the point of its use (more exclamatory & emotive) was clarified in the comments.

    Thanks! It’s not often you get cool words like these from blogs, instead of the pleasantries & survivalist phrases. Keep it up!

  2. My mom uses “mottainai” all the time when no one eats the left-overs. I dread having to go through the 9000 lbs of junk we left back in the states. But I’m sure I’ll be thinking natsukashii! when I see all the baby clothes my old uniforms. I agree 100% with Lydia when she says we get the opportunity to take inventory of all of our stuff every few years. I’ve turning into a minimalist because of it!

  3. Tat,

    I LOVE the expression NATSUKASHII. It definitely does mean the same as nostalgia but it’s used in much groovier way. Like and exclamation. Like we would say WOW but when you smell a pine tree because it reminds of Christmas. In that case you can just say NATSUKASHII and it captures all of the feelings that mean THIS IS SUCH A NOSTALGIC SMELL. We would never just exclaim NOSTALGIA the way Japanese people exclaim NATSUKASHII!

    It’s good stuff!

  4. I hear you, Lydia. Sometimes I think that I collect things to release stress. I love 100 yen store and have come home with a couple of bags full of stuff. Definitely something that we don’t need is in there. But, it’s fun to shop!

  5. With my family being waist deep into this PCS, I am amazed at how much junk we have in our house. Most days I wonder if it is all just junk and anything we really need. I too am thankful that every few years we get to really take an inventory of all the junk we have so we can get rid of most of it before we stock up on more at the next duty station! I know…..Mottainai!