Spirit of things

Although it has largely been forgotten since disposability became the order of the day, the Japanese once had a different attitude toward their household goods. They felt guilty about throwing things away, especially utensils made by human hands. The word used for these guilt feelings, ushirometasa, literally means feeling someone’s gaze behind one’s back. One has done something improper; anyone secretly watching would surely disapprove. The gaze implied by ushirometasa includes that of fellow humans, but traditionally it carried stronger connotations of the gaze of a divine spirit. When a utensil is discarded, the agent of the gaze is the spirit of the utensil itself.

Kazuhiko Komatsu: Supernatural Apparitions and Domestic Life in Japan, 1999

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