もの は 大切 に使わなければならない (mono wa taisetsu ni tsukawanakerebanaranai) Everything must be used carefully and not wasted
From the outside looking in, the Japanese are voracious consumers of the latest gadgets and only seem to be into the highest fashion so they must in turn be wasteful people. On the contrary the Japanese are most likely the most frugal nation in the world. Per capita the average Japanese household saves 28% of their income compared to the US which is at about 14%. Also the Japanese are serious if not borderline fanatical recyclers. When I was in Japan a year or so ago, they gave out a card detailing how to recycle. The card was so specific that I still got a reprimand by the garbage man because I mixed up the categories.
Japan's spendthrift ways could stem from the time after WWII when supplies were short or it could because they are an island nation with limited natural resources, but how is to know for sure.
I am not sure but what I do know is that culturally the Japanese have a certain jenesequa about not wasting things. There is a certain phrase that every Japanese person says when they here about something being wasted - mottainai. It's the kind of thing you say when you see food being thrown out or when someone is being wasteful with their time or money. This phrase is for anything wasteful but it could also be extended one's efforts or towards people.
To the Japanese culturally everything has value and this may stem from the Shinto belief that everything has a soul. This reverence for things can clearly be seen in the best selling book in Marie Kondo's book on tidying up or from the seminal work The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura. Both books talk about how things have souls and that they should be treated respectfully. I saw this first hand many times growing up. I can't tell you how many times I saw my grandmother wrapping leftovers in an old restaurant to-go container that was then wrapped in an old grocery store shopping bag or how Furuya Sensei would insist on keeping old scraps of wrapping paper or old boxes "just in case" he might need them.
This idea of conservation is something that most of us only think about as the toothpaste nears the end or as the shampoo is about to run out. Wouldn't it be nice to not be wasteful and take more than we need in the spirit of conservation when we open the toothpaste or before we order too much food?
It is ok to own things just as long as we use those things to their fullest with the spirit of mottainai. Conservation, reusing, re-purposing or recycling is the spirit of mottainai.
In Aikido our uke (partner) gives us their body in order for us to improve. This is the highest form of compassion in which we sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of the other person. Their efforts should not be wasted or abused. Their efforts and sacrifices are some of our greatest possessions. We shouldn't waste it so please mottainai.