March 24, 2011

Japanify: Mottainai Obake (“Don’t Waste” Ghosts)

by yoko

Picture 3

For a few days after the quake hit in Sendai, public television networks in Japan refrained from running advertising due to the instability of the whole situation. I remember a similar commercial-less time period immediately after 9/11.

To fill up time in between news reports, Japanese networks ran a series of public service announcements by the Japanese Advertising Council. The PSA that emerged as the most popular of the bunch was “Aisatsu no mahou” or “The Magic of Greeting.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCydaBYsR28

As Yamahomo pointed out, at the very least, we should all be cheerful.

But an older PSA from my childhood (also by the Japanese Advertising Council) that seemed to most closely echo what my mom taught me growing up was the “Mottainai Obake” (“Don’t Waste” Ghosts).

The animation opens with an old man in the mountains inviting some ungrateful looking hooligans into his house for dinner. They pile in and sit in front of their meals that the old man has set up for them. One boy shouts, “I hate daikon!” then the girl shouts “I hate beans!” while the small boy says “I hate fish!” and finally the last boy says “I despise carrots!”

That night, the Mottainai Obake (“Don’t Waste” Ghosts) visit them in their dark room, chanting “mottainai” (don’t waste) as the kids huddle and apologize.

The next day, the kids happily eat all the grains of rice, every morsel of meat and veggies that are offered to them by the old man.

This PSA quite literally scares kids into eating all their food. I don’t know if it works (my husband still hates tomatoes despite remembering this PSA vividly), but its message is one that I strive to live by everyday: Value your food.

*Every Thursday, Japanify aims to make Japanese cooking at home easy, accessible and affordable. For questions, please email Yoko directly at yoko@umamimart.com or simply comment below!

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