Saturday, January 26, 2013


The first few weeks I was in Tokyo, I was homesick but also terribly nauseous.  So one day, when general unpleasantness turned into my-goodness-I'm-really-going-to-throw-up in the middle of Tameike -Sanno station, I looked around for a trash can and realized there wasn't one in sight and, come to think of it, I had never seen a public trash can anywhere in this new city of mine.  Happily, the waive of nausea passed and I didn't have to decide between puking on the station floor or the train tracks.

(For the record, I have since observed many a drunkard choose the station floor.)

Ironically, this city with no trash cans is so, so clean.  I accumulate so much more trash in Tokyo than I did in LA.  If you go into a convenience store to buy something as simple as a juice in a glass bottle and a bento, you will exit with the glass bottle in a polyurethane mesh sleeve, small packet of dry ice to keep your drink cold, bento box (top and bottom) and plastic grass decoration wrapped in a lightweight plastic bag, chopsticks in a paper sleeve, and wet napkin.  If you dare to eat your lunch on the go (and you shouldn't), you will end up carrying all this garbage around for some time--in fact, when on the subway, I often spy small piles of trash, mostly empty energy drink cans, in the bottom of purses that cost a small fortune.

That's right, the rule-abiding citizens of Tokyo will carry their trash (including cigarette butts) home or to their office, where they will sort it: burnable, non-burnable and PET.  Come to think of it, my apartment complex has even more categories.  Minato-ku, the ward within Tokyo where I live, gave me a  30+ page text-heavy manual detailing how to arrange my trash for pick up.

This seems to be a common thread in the Japanese experience.  Exacting, precise textual explanations for lengthy processes are everywhere.  Rules are abundant.  Don't get me wrong, I love rules and I love that Tokyo feels so clean and safe because Japanese people are orderly by nature, but even I find it a bit tedious after a while.

For those who are wondering, I've been told that trashcans were removed as an anti-terrorism measure.

[For the record, all-nighters at the office last week: 2.  I am exhausted.]


Metal said...

I wish the Japanese could infuse some wisdom about their tidy ways into the Indians! Lol. ..and wow hope your # of all nighters come down...its ok once in a while but every week kinda sucks!

Elizabeth said...

That sounds like a pain but very preferable to China's way. I just got back from a 12 day trip there and they never clean up their trash. It's on the street, alleyways, even their rivers. You would hike these empty trails but they would still be littered with plastic wrappers and cigarette butts.

Paragon2Pieces said...

Agreed! China and India have many virtues, but tidiness of public spaces does not appear to be tops among them :)