Garbage Tales

Sometimes I think that my life in suburban Tokyo is boring since nothing exciting really happens. One day easily fades into the next. My life consists of daycare pickups and drop offs, grocery runs to Gyomu Supermarket, and detergent shopping at Sugi Drug Store, and the rest of the time working at my desk for the better part of the day. Then I realized that a lot of interesting things happen, it is just that I stopped sharing everything with the world. I’m quiet quitting social media. But allow me to share with you a couple of stories about garbage from my quiet neighbourhood.

Garbage rules regarding sorting are very serious in Japan. Recyclables like plastic and glass bottles, newspapers, cans, etc have to be sorted and disposed on different days of the week. The garbage that is to be burned (kitchen waste, diapers, such) is usually collected twice a week, and on those days we have to put out our garbage into designated bags and put it out on the roadside by 8am for collection. Most apartment buildings, like ours, have a covered garbage station so the crows and other animals don’t get to it. For the stand-alone houses, which make up a majority houses in my neighbourhood, they have their own garbage bins or will throw a net over it, although how effective is a flimsy net in deterring crows, I do not know. Actually I do, see image below.

Crows messing up the garbage in Japan, despite the flimsy anti-crow net. This is not my picture, I got it from

So there is this rich neighbour around the corner, right next to Kai’s daycare. I know they are rich because they have a large-ish garden, I mean you could fit an entire Tokyo-sized house in their front garden. They also have ample parking with large cars.

But get this, almost every Tuesday or Friday, they left out their ‘burnable’ garbage out in the open, no garbage bin, no net covering. These people are rich, couldn’t they afford a garbage bin? You can guess what happened. The crows come, had a feast and made a mess. Each single time. By the time I got back from dropping Kai off at daycare, I would find the old lady sweeping up the mess, and I would hope that that was the last time. But it would happen again. The thing I couldn’t understand is that their next-door neighbour, who appeared related to them as there was no fence between the two houses which were built in the same style, had a garbage bin. Couldn’t they lend/buy their kin a bin? I made up my mind that the next time I saw the mess, I would ring their bell and suggest a very simple solution: a garbage bin.

It is as if they heard my thoughts, because by the time the next collection day came around, they had a garbage bin. Not a new one, you could tell it had been around the block, but a functional one. The crows’ feast had been halted. I was happy that it was finally over. They still put out some garbage without a bin sometimes, but it appears to be just papers, no food. I’m sorry to take such an interest in my neighbours garbage, but this is normal in Japan and don’t be surprised if someone goes through your garbage to make sure you aren’t properly sorting out your garbage. See @gaijinmommy’s excellent lego stop motion video below.

The second story is kind of related to the first. The third house from mine appears to be unoccupied. There is a vine that’s almost enveloping the entire house, the tree in front of the house is unpruned, the open garage next to the house is overrun by weeds.

Then one day, as I was taking little kid out to the daycare, I saw several bags of garbage out in the street, already scattered by crows. So someone lives in that house after all. The person had came out, swept up the trash, and was then spraying something around the trash. I wondered what it was. An anti-crow spray perhaps? I was running late for daycare drop off, so we went on our merry way. When I got back about 5 minutes later, the crows were back! No surprise there. The spray obviously didn’t work. Stepping gingerly around the mess, I thought I would ring the doorbell to alert the neighbour that the crows were back. They never answered the bell. I had places to be so I left it at that, but at the end of the day, the street was clear. Since then, I’ve never seen the person and the house looks unoccupied and unkempt, but I assume that someone still lives in it.

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