Japan: Land of the Overly Complex

I have a confession to make: this is not really, strictly speaking, a blog about Japan. For a blog to be about a place, there has to be some level of detachment on the part of the blogger. I don’t mean to suggest that a blogger whose subject of choice is a place should be clinical, but the blog will never be directly about them, so their presence will always be slightly downplayed. After all, their goal is to regale readers with fascinating details about a place, not to share the minutiae of daily life.

That is not this blog. This blog is first and foremost about me and my life. My life happens to be in Japan, but I’m not a travel writer and feel absolutely no compunction to keep my minutiae out of the picture.

That being said, this is a post predominantly about Japan. About a very specific aspect of life here in Japan, no less.

My trash collection schedule, courtesy of the city of Matsuyama.

I don’t own a scanner, so all I have for you is a photo, but that is the [extremely] detailed handout about and calendar for trash collection here in Matsuyama. Yes, it’s all in Japanese, which is why I’ve written all over it. But the top is cut out of the picture, so you can’t see most of that. And, yes, there are six different types of trash with colour coding for your convenience. Those types are: burnable (pink), plastics (yellow), paper (green), metal and glass (blue), landfill (purple), and mercury (grey). Different types are collected on different days of the week at specific times, but not the same time for every type, and those coloured columns are filled with the myriad of things that are and are not covered by each blanket category.

Additionally, the trash must be rinsed before it can be put in the bins, labels and caps must be removed from bottles, and different types of trash require different types of bags. Burnable, for example, goes in translucent white bags, while plastics go in clear bags. Paper and cardboard are lumped together and must be tied together with a specific type of string that is used only for trash. Unfortunately, I missed the paper day (it was yesterday) because I don’t have any of that string, which means I’m stuck with a lot of paper and cardboard for another two weeks. Paper has a very inconvenient pick-up schedule.

Tomorrow happens to be a burnable day, so a little after 10:00 I ran mine down to the collection area. I had to wait that long because, technically, you’re not supposed to put your trash out until the day it’s to be collected. However, burnable is picked up between six and seven AM and I am not willing to get up at five to sort out my trash. So I wait for cover of darkness and take it down then. I wish Wednesday were a plastics day, but Wednesday is a we-don’t-pick-up-your-trash day, so I’m stuck with about a million plastic bottles until Thursday.

What happens if you screw it up, you ask? (Pretend you asked.) Well, ideally they won’t notice, in which case it doesn’t matter. If they do notice, because you were stupid and used the wrong type of bag, or clearly put plastics with burnables or something, they will simply not take it. Since I live in an apartment, though, it’s not necessarily clear what belongs to who, so it might end up sitting there under the incredibly ineffective net meant to keep the crows out (it totally doesn’t) for quite some time. Which is why it’s best to just make sure you do it right the first time.

I get that recycling is important, and props to Japan for caring, but the way they handle it feels just a little excessive.

In closing, have a picture I took the other day from my veranda. It was a bit stormy and very pretty outside. I zoomed in to cut out as much of the neighbourhood as possible because, frankly, that’s not pretty.

Pretty clouds.

It never did properly storm, but it was a definite improvement on the burning sun and oppressive heat we get most of the time.


2 thoughts on “Japan: Land of the Overly Complex

  1. I must say, I was excited when the recycling at my parent’s place changed to mixed recycling… now only glass needs to be separated and all your trash gets mixed together.

    Sadly, they have taken away recycling from our apartment, so I am forced to trash recyclables! Does Japan recycle? I am guessing that is the purpose for the insane schedule… but I want to be sure anyway.

    • Yeah, they recycle. Everything they don’t recycle is burned and only big things (like furniture) go to landfills. It’s a good system in the sense that there’s very little waste left lying around, but it’s a pain.

      How can they take away recycling? That’s mental.

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