Pepi in Wonderland: Gomi Adventures… or how to manage the trash

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So here we are again with a new chapter of Pepi in Wonderland. This time, we are going to talk about the gomi adventures, also known as how to manage the trash. This might seem totally weird, but I never thought as much about trash as when I started living in Japan and moving from house to house in Tokyo. Tokyo is divided in “ku,” wards. Each ward has different rules on how to deal with trash. Some are easier than others, but as a general rule, it’s way more complicated than just their EU counterparts.

Before going to Japan, the only thing I had to worry about was separating the trash into different types, and go out from home and put the trash into their bins. And that happened whenever I wanted. Furniture would be taken care of by the city council. So, you only needed to put it next to the bins. End of the story.

Well… not in Japan.

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Imagine that you have the schedule from hell to deal with trash: twice a week you’ll have burnable gomi taken from a spot in which you have to place them. And not all buildings have the same space, nor bins to keep them during the week. So, it is possible that you’ll have to use the balcony to keep them till the due date comes. And, forgetting about the burnable trash day is like dealing with the doomsday. Why? Well, if you live in 20squared meters apartment with a tiny balcony, and you have to keep in the burnable trash, I assure you that you come up with funky ideas on how to make it disappear. For example, taking trash into your bag and going to several different convenience stores and use their bins to deal with the extra trash (like wrapping papers). Why? No space mate! (Did it only once… I had forgotten the doomsday burnable trash date, and it was chaos!)

Other types of trash are taken care off even during fewer times a week. And if you thought that burnable trash was a nightmare wait till you need to put out some furniture. You need to call the Sodaigomi (huge trash) centers in your area. They will tell you how much each of the items cost to be taken care of. You go to the convenience store, pay, get some stickers, put those stickers on each item, and take out each item before the date an hour that the center tells you. Not like eight hours before that hour, but like, just a bit before, so that other people are not bothered with your sodaigomi. No wonder the second-hand furniture market and bye bye sells are common when you move to one part to the other of the city, or when you go back to your home country.

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In fact, when I first arrived in Tokyo, I got all my furniture for free! All thanks to the bye bye sales. They’re awesome! Then, karma strikes back and when you go back to your homeland you start a bye bye sale of your own and try to give to someone else the fridge, futon, and many other stuff that you don’t want to send it to sodaigomi centers because is frigging expensive!

What’s impressive it’s the amount of retro items that you can find in homes in Japan. I shared flat with a Japanese girl and an American guy for some time. In that house we had a very old TV (I think that it was from when the dinos walked the Earth), an old skateboard some other roommate had used like ten or more years ago, and many other ancient objects. Sometimes I felt like I could do some archeology in there! But, it was not something that only happened in the flat I shared, but in many other homes that I visited as well.

Once you get used to all the things you have to do with the trash, is quite hard going back. Especially when it comes to cleaning. Wait, what? Cleaning the trash? Cans, milk packages, etc have to be really clean. And basically any other stuff that might feel like piggy, you end up washing them up before their disposal. So, when you spend years and years cleaning the trash before its disposal, it’s normal to end up doing it automatically.

[Moment to appreciate the adds in this blog. Look for some Elvis music and admire the views! Jealous, aren’t you! Got to enjoy the cold touch of the King himself!]

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That moment when you find Elvis, the King, and you finally get a shot with him! This statue was in front of a Rock’n Roll shop hidden in Harajuku (quite hard to find). Sorry folks, the King is gone now!

So, when you are back in EU, you might end up having members of your family staring wide-eyed because you want to know all about the trash days. Then they end up staring at you even more wide-eyed when they discover you cleaning the trash before putting it into a bag, just before you proceed to go outside and finally dispose of it. I remember arguing about it and being unable to understand all the fuss. After some trips to the trash bin and smelling the hell neighbors had disposed of just some minutes before, I finally decided not to clean the cans. [Yup, you don’t need to clean certain types of trash, in fact, you don’t clean the trash ever in your entire life, you just dispose of it. Trash is supposed to smell like hell, and you’re not supposed to increase the water bill cleaning the trash.]

Then you start to discover lots of furniture that is new, and that shouldn’t be next to the trash bin. For some reason, I forgot all about this feature, and I was nervous because I was thinking about the gorgeous furniture that was making all the neighborhood terribly upset. If it were Japan, neighbors would have a heart attack for sure. But here? The only one with tranquilizers because of the damn sodaigomi was me!

The next time you throw a can into the trash bin, think about its disposal in different countries. What might seem like an easy task where you live, can be a quite endeavor in another. Japanese are masters of organization, and so their way of disposing of the trash, especially in Tokyo might be a nightmare for foreigners. But once you grasp it, you get to organize yourself and your trash in ways you never thought before. [I say “never thought” because I had not thought about the trash in such a thorough way in my entire life before going to Tokyo.]

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Copyright: Images on this post (C) / Memes (C) by their owners.

About pepi

A Geek Girl interested in Geek Anthropology, comic books, books, Superheroes and discovering all about pop culture.

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  • So true! I almost completely forgot about the trash thing in Japan. I lived there for a number of years and I think that little thing escaped my mind. My husband and I got so many pieces of free furniture or highly discounted furniture that I wished we’d kept more of it since moving back to the states.

    Here in Hawaii, there is a mild reflection of Japan with the furniture thing. It’s normal for discount stores to be all over the island or someone to simply put the furniture out on the street for anyone to pick up.

    thanks you make me miss Japan!

    • Yay! It’s good to remember Japan 😀 I love it!!

      • Yes, I will open admit I’m beyond thrilled to go back next year for a visit. 🙂

        • Yaaaaay! 😀 😀 😀 It’s always good to go back and enjoy the country again! <3 <3

  • Holy shit, I would not be able to live in Japan… I could NOT deal with that level of “organization” and “cleanliness” and “craziness” (lol!)! I can’t believe they make you DO all of that! That just seems absurd! But I’m an American, so I’m basically Jon Snow: I know nothing. 😉

    • Well, since there’s few space available you have no choice but to do it. If no one did, it would be chaos. So, even if it’s annoying you know that if you don’t do it, it’ll be worse… sigh~ I think it’s better being like Castiel and never know the reference xDDDD

  • It truly is amazing how different cultures/places deal with daily things like this. I like the idea of furniture being recycled more so than always being thrown out though.

    • Yup, I love discovering new cultures, and for me Japan was like Alice’s Wonderland. I learnt many stuff that now it’s really useful for me 😉 For that I am extremely grateful to Japan <3

  • Hahah that is so crazy! I remember reading in manga that the way they talked about trash was different, but I didn’t know how it all worked.

    • Yup it’s so crazy! xDDD And rules change from ward to ward… I moved like 5 times while I was in Tokyo, and each time rules were different and I was like… noooo, not agaaaain~ (days, how to handle the bags, etc) Plus we were in a house where the owner used to take a look at the trash (yeah! inside OUR TRASH!!!) to see if we had done it correctly O.o Ahem… Trash stories.. lOl

  • This is so crazy!

    • I know LOL But then you get used to it and then you do it where you are not supposed to xDDDDD And things get funky LOL