No one likes taking out the trash. Waking up early in the morning or trying to find a trash can while walking on the street results from a minor annoyance to the first signs that you may need future anger management courses. Most of the time, throwing away trash involves just tossing your rubbish in the nearest receptacle or dropping your household trash off at the curb for pick-up. Welcome to Japan, where trash rules rule!
With all the wonderful food in Japan, you just got to run into the nearest konbini convenient store to buy some tasty food—but then you have some trash. If you were foolish enough to buy some food then go for a walk, you may be out of luck. While some Japanese consider walking while eating is rude, your real problem is finding somewhere to throw away your trash. Japan just doesn’t have many trash cans. Your best bet is to sneak into a fast food place or super market, or otherwise find the front of another konbini because otherwise you are expected to carry home your own trash and dispose of it at home. And remarkably, by seeing how clean Japanese streets are many people do throw their trash away in the proper place.
The headache doesn’t stop when you find a trash can because there is never just one. Trash cans in Japan are lonely so they are always found in groups. On a small island nation, Japan needs to recycle as much trash as they can. As such, within the line of trash cans you will find one for cans, one for plastic bottles, one for burnable trash, and perhaps even more (non-burnable, glass, paper, etc.) My friend has been yelled at by a Japanese police officer for using the wrong can, and I have dug through trash when I used the wrong container to save face in front of some locals. If you can’t read Japanese or understand the pictures, just take a peek inside at the contents to make sure you follow the correct procedure.
Lastly is the explanation to the picture in this article. This is the neighborhood trash area. In Japan, you don’t wheel your trash can to a curb and you don’t have a dumpster if you own an apartment. Each neighborhood has a designated trash area. All trash and recyclables are taken here. However, you can only deliver certain trash on certain days and times, and in special bags. There is no room to set trash cans out on the narrow streets, so you must go to the community bin. This part sucks. Taking out the trash started as a chore, but in Japan it is most certainly a monumental task. Walking two to three blocks to find the trash area in the mandatory morning hours particularly when it is snowing throughout the winter, is one thing you just have to put up with and learn to love.
Recyclables are understandably recycled, but the trash in Japan will never be seen again. Trash is burned in high technology incinerators which converts the heat into energy. When in Japan, keep it clean.