It can be a bit embarrassing at a restaurant to say that you'd like to take your leftovers away with you. That's probably why people the world over often ask for the food to be put in a "doggy bag," whether or not they have a hungry pooch waiting at home. The cute expression also helps them to avoid looking mean.

Remarkably, though, the Japanese language never came up with an equivalent to describe a container for leftover food — and without there being a word for something, how can it exist?

That's why Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Doggy Bag Committee (DBC) has set out to popularize the English term. By encouraging diners in Japan to take their leftovers home, DBC plans to try and reduce the nation's annual 5-to-9 million-ton mountain of food left on people's plates or discarded by shops after its sell-by date.