Trash is a big deal here.
A really big deal.
In this two-part tale I will tell of the trashy drama happening in my neighborhood, there are tears that have been shed. They weren’t mine either.
Foreigners can get a bad rap here for failing to dispose of their trash appropriately. And for a good part, it’s probably warranted. They tend to break the rules more often, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
But having lived in an apartment complex where we were the only foreigners, let me tell you that Japanese can also break the rules.
I would get really frustrated when people did their trash incorrectly (which wasn’t infrequently), because I knew we’d get blamed for it.
In fact, some foreigner friends of ours were recently expelled from their trash group and now have to pay for a special trash service because they were blamed for some beer cans that they were accused of disposing of improperly– and they don’t even drink.
Doesn’t matter. They were kicked out.
Anyway, we moved into our new house, and knew there would be new trash situation. In fact, trash was the first topic of conversation we had with our new neighbors. The most senior lady (the sempai) wanted to have the trash collection spot at the corner of our house, and as we were the newbies on the block, we didn’t have much of a choice but to say ok.
After they quizzed us, we insisted that we knew how to throw trash away, and we thought that it would be the end of the conversation.
Obviously, it wasn’t.
Our first morning to throw away trash in our new place, we gathered up all our bags we had accumulated. Granted, in the chaos of the move and clean up of our former apartment, not everything was exactly as it was supposed to be.
My husband grabbed everything up, and headed outside to drop it off outside our gate.
Our neighbors were there. Two of the old little ladies, one of them the sempai and, in our own driveway, in front of all passing by, said,
“Oh no, oh no, this isn’t where it should be.”
They proceeded to open our trash, reach in and pull things out, re-sort… they pulled the nets with our sink gross-ness and everything.
“No, this needs to be in another bag.”
(Actually, it didn’t need to be)
They grabbed the stash of newspapers they had come with to cover the items in our bags so that nothing could be seen from the outside.
At some point in this ordeal, I popped my head outside to see what was going on.
Seeing my husband at a loss and the two ladies diving into our trash in our own driveway, I decided I didn’t need to know and just popped myself right back inside the house.
Instead, I watched from a window where I couldn’t be seen, and tried to mentally send out waves of empathy to my husband.
Over the next few days, they proceeded to keep an eye out on us. They brought us new copies of the yearly trash manual, English translations they had found, extra stashes of newspaper to cover our trash.
It was a bit embarrassing. A bit annoying. A bit public. A bit of a big deal every morning.
But. While we once again levelled up our disposal skills, we also discovered some of the reasons behind their processes.
And also a way around it.
For one thing, since our trash spot doesn’t have a net to cover it… and crows here are pretty scary and pretty destructive. So, that’s one reason they insist on having our trash contents covered with cardboard or newspaper.
We get that.
But we’re also just a little self-conscious every time we throw out our trash…
Since the trash truck stops in front of our house first thing in the morning, we started waiting for the chime of the trash truck to make his way to us. Then, we rush out and hand out trash directly to the truck driver. Our littlest daughter usually comes out to wave and watch, and they at least don’t seem to have a problem with our procedures.
Another neighbor has noticed though.
And in the next post, I will tell you her story.