Trash Talk

Every March, we get our Trash magazine in the mail. It’s actually pretty useful and I keep mine on the side of our refrigerator for reference.

This trash magazine shows us how and when, over the course of the next year, to dispose of our garbage and recyclables, and which category various types of items fall into.

In the back, they have a really handy little chart for each neighborhood that lists each month and each day that certain trash goes out.

Over the last year, I’ve noticed that I don’t have to reference it that much, though we still keep it posted. I just know that, for example, it’s the 3rd Wednesday of the month tomorrow, and so I get to throw out all the cans, spaghetti jars and aerosol bottles that might have accumulated under my sink.

Strange, but it’s weirdly satisfying to get that stuff out and deposited under our trash net.

Well, as part our new life in the elementary school system, we have new trash rules.


So, a couple weeks back we got a message in our Neighborhood Group messenger (Neighborhood Group- all our kids walk together to school, we have our own rotation of patrol shifts and PTA paperwork gets passed down the representatives and divisions and gets distributed to all these little groups) about trash. I wasn’t sure what in the world they were talking about.

The next day we get a paperwork packet and a schedule about it that I sat down with coffee to peruse over.

Apparently the first Saturday of the month at 9:30am, we will meet in front of our apartment and someone (??) collects certain items from us (milk cartons, aluminum cans, old clothes, boxes, etc.) which have to be cleaned and prepared in certain ways and separately. The copies they gave showing some examples look like they have been copied since the Stone Age and are basically illegible. But I suppose everyone else knows how it works, so it’s not such a big deal.

Anyhow, somehow the group makes money by doing this and that helps fund things like the small gifts that each group gave to welcome the new first graders.

(I just keep thinking, I’ve never received money for throwing trash out– or for recycling! In fact, I’ve had to pay sometimes to dispose of oversized trash!)

I guess it was time for a change anyway, I’d gotten so used to my trash system and working it in our house… it was getting too easy.

Some might be thinking– well, you don’t have to do it, do you? You can just continue with your own ways.

Yes, you have to do it. No, I can’t just do it my way.

I’d like to, but since we live in Japan, we are part of group culture now.

In group culture, individuals all act as part of the group, all contribute, all “show up” for the good of the group, all cooperate with the mandates of the group.

It would not be good to just do it our way (or not do it at all) because of convenience or because of preference.

I think this is very different than Western thinking. It’s not as “optional” of a lifestyle here.

But, in all fairness, there’s a lot of grace for “outsiders” like us who are coming into groups and into the system. Japanese will help us get started to figure it out, but we have to do our part. And when we do, as foreigners, we gain more credibility within the group (whereas, I think for a Japanese, it’s just a given that you’ll do it). It helps build the foundation for a good witness and respect from them…

And it shows a respect for them and their ways.

And if my years of finessing trash skills needs to be canned, well… so be it.


2 thoughts on “Trash Talk

  1. I love the way you write Janine…I feel as though I’m there. Each emotion seems to come to life. Everyday things but in a culture so different. It’s always brings a smile when I walk along with you through your words. ❤️


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