January 24, 2014

What is the Japanese word for lean? "Mottainai" = no waste

Lean is not a word, it is a mindset that comes from the Japanese word "mottainai", no waste

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How Japanese keep their bath warmer longer

Picture: Japanese bath cover

Lean. The new western buzzword that borrows from the Japanese word "mottainai", no waste. But lean is more than just a word in Japan it is a mindset that impacts every aspect of daily life not just manufacturing or business.It applies from when you sit down to breakfast and leave your rice bowl with three grains of rice in it and someone at the table will inspect (probably everyone at the table) and someone will say to you directly, finish all your rice "mottainai". It continues when you throw out the waste paper basket and other household members will inspect the contents and take out things they can use and will say to you "mottainai". 

When you finish taking a bath in Japan at the end of the day which you share with all the other members of the household.You have to get in and out quickly and replace the bath covers (boards that cover the bath and keep in the heat in) so the next person also enjoys a hot bath, "mottainai". 

Bath water in Japan is typically used for up to three consecutive days before the bath is cleaned. The water in the bath is used in the washing machine, "mottainai". Nearly all Japanese households have a pump and a hose unit . This unit takes the bath water and fills the washing machine with a push of a button. Bath water is recycled, "mottainai". 

So you may now be getting a picture of how deep the meaning of "mottainai" or lean thinking goes in daily Japanese life. 

Japanese do not just apply this concept to manufacturing and business , they apply it to everything! 

For western companies to really compete with Japan they must not only understand the concept but apply it and Japan has had over a thousand years head start.

Learn more about Japan and Japanese culture at

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