I came across


What does that mean?

  • 1
    What's your best guess?
    – ajsmart
    Aug 19, 2020 at 17:13
  • @ajsmart Literally it means a wasteful ghost appears
    – Newbie
    Aug 19, 2020 at 17:16
  • 1
    @Newbie I read your comment as if I were playing pokemon
    – jarmanso7
    Aug 19, 2020 at 21:22

1 Answer 1


If you don't finish your plate, then the leftover food will come to life and this you call もったいないお化け.

Apparently, this concept originates in this TV spot and as far as I can tell is also nowadays a common way to encourage children to finish their plate.

Telling children that their leftover food will turn into monsters if they don't eat it may sound quite bizarre when you say it like this, but I guess in the context of Japanese culture it is not such an outlandish idea, considering that objects may have a kind of "soul".

  • 1
    This video brings me back to the 80s...
    – naruto
    Aug 19, 2020 at 18:06
  • 4
    FYI: もったいないおばけ{LHHHHHHHL}, otherwise it'd be just a ghost who is wasteful Aug 20, 2020 at 3:46
  • @broccolifacemask-cloth I didn't get what you mean. Are you saying ったいないおば = ghost who is wasteful?
    – Newbie
    Aug 20, 2020 at 10:38
  • 1
    @Newbie I think it’s showing the pitch accent, although I’m not sure myself how/why it affects meaning here. It’s not that ったいないおば has a separate meaning, but that it’s pronounced with a high pitch non-stop.
    – Chortos-2
    Aug 20, 2020 at 11:59
  • 1
    @Newbie FWIW the "otherwise" one is meant to be もったいない{LHHHHL}おばけ{LHL} Aug 20, 2020 at 13:43

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