Today is Christmas Day, and this year I’m spending it in Japan. This morning I watched Tom & Jerry’s The Night Before Christmas and Disney’s A Christmas Carol while eating one of the two Christmas cakes from the fridge, played the fresh copy of Super Mario Bros. Wii for an hour, then went to Tokyo Midtown for the illuminations and the Christmas market. The picture you can see at the top of this post was taken there. I’m about to have dinner, but unfortunately it won’t include roast turkey this year. That’s OK, it’s been a pretty good day!
Merry Christmas and a prosperous and productive New Year from Tokyo Story!
There was a party at the apartment not so long ago. Mostly Japanese and Korean guys came, and in typical fashion bought a huge amount with them. We had already bought beer for everyone and made a giant cocktail (Vodka, Gin and fruit juices), but everyone who came bought more alcohol; more than they could even consume themselves to add to the stockpile. It wasn’t just alcohol they bought either: inside the numerous combini bags there were rice crackers, manju sweets, wasabi snacks, peanuts, pizza (uncooked), noodles, cup noodles, fish sausages (nasty), sour worms, fish crackers, frankfurters, dried fish, dried squid, crisps and loads of other stuff besides.
So when the party is underway and the the 3LDK is maxed out, the group of girls in attendance start cooking in the kitchen area. Like, 5 pizzas, plates of german sausages, large plates of noodles etc., and start handing them out to the party crew. It was like a wife-off. Who, out of the girls, can prove themselves to be the best, domestically? It was pretty interesting for me from a cultural point of view. I’m always comparing Japan to the UK. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, but it’s really the only yardstick I have by which to measure.
So that happened, and then the next day I tentatively slide open the door to the living area from my bedroom. The place was annihilated. There was a mass of beer cans, food plates and packaging. The quantity of beer cans was astounding. I’ve had parties before back home, but this was something new. I knew straight away that this was going to present a problem for us.
In Japan, or at least in Taito-ku in Tokyo, you have a refuse collection system in place that segregates waste into 3 categories: burnable (paper, food waste, cardboard etc.), recyclable (glass, plastic, pet bottles, polystyrene trays etc.), and non-burnable (pretty much everything else that falls outside these categories). The problem is, recycling is compulsory. If you put out a bag of rubbish on burnable day, it will be checked, and if there is a glass bottle or a plastic bottle, or whatever, it won’t be taken. Same goes for the other days too; you have to put the appropriate gomi out. On recycle day you have a few different crates with the type of rubbish meant for it scrawled in magic-marker on the side (in Japanese of course – an opportunity to practice those reading skills). The problem is, these crates are so small. You could fit maybe 20 crushed beer cans in one, but we had like 150. Three full rubbish bags of them.
In the past, we had managed to put out a huge bag of recyclables on recycling day, and the guys just took it. I thought maybe we could do the same this time, so I lined up all 6 bags (the cans and the other packaging, plus the ordinary household stuff we had accumulated), and went to bed. Next morning (late-ish), I looked over the balcony down onto the street, and the bags were gone. I was pretty relieved. I went into the kitchen to make some English tea and we’d ran out of milk, so I was going to pop out to the combini, but I couldn’t get out of the front door. I pushed pretty hard to get out, and outside the door was all of the rubbish, piled up with more reading practice taped to the top.
So now, we need to find a way to dispense the waste in some other way. Doing it in dribs and drabs over time using the collection service could take years. Instead, I’ve been trying to devise a strategy to loose the waste somehow. More cultural info for you here now: In Tokyo, outside the numerous combinis (convenience stores), there are bottle, can and paper bins for you to put stuff in. They also have these next to drinks vending machines in the city. I’m thinking that there must be enough of these in my area to fit all of the party waste in. It will mean splitting the large bags up into smaller batches and putting them in the front basket of my bike, ready for the first sortie of Operation Gomi.