Put that garbage in your pocket, buster!

My backpack is my portable trash can
July 3, 2016, written by The Captain

Oh, you didn’t know?

Those brave souls who’ve survived the 18-hour flight across the West Pond over to Nipon know very well about the garbage situation.

Let me tell you about it.

But first let’s paint a picture.

You’re in downtown Osaka, you just scored some bacon & cheese Takoyaki (because you hate seafood), and you’re walking down the street, eating with your fingers, etc., you’re feeling good, life is good, everything is going to be ok.

Eventually, it’s time to throw away your napkins, plates, cartons, whatever you have. But LO AND BEHOLD! There will be no garbage bin to be found!

No bin, no trash can, no container, not even a receptacle. And there you stand. Confused. What do you even do?

You might be reasonable, and think: “oh, we’ll I’m sure there will be one just around the corner” but there never is! And you’ve had your trash in your hand for 40 minutes.

What is one to do?

One is expected to carry their garbage around until they find a receptacle, wherever that may be. Usually, you end up taking it home, and putting it in your own garbage bin.

Why all this tomfoolery?

Good question! I have absolutely no idea. But, let’s speculate:

  1. Japanese is a ‘clean’ society, it places tremendous value on maintaining cleanliness. Therefore, having bins of garbage, publicly visible, would be to them ‘unclean’ since it is visible.
  2. By having no garbage cans available and littering is illegal it puts pressure on people to hold on to their garbage and dispose of it themselves, in a more appropriate place than on the streets. Because Japanese people have an innate feeling of responsibility and reluctance to break the law
  3. Garbage smells, attracts rodents and bums
  4. It is somehow more environmentally-friendly to have fewer public garbage receptacles.


Oh but wait! Fear not. There ARE indeed some places you can find garbage bins where you can lighten your load and rid yourself of this baggage.

  1. In front of convenience stores. Every convenience store will have a series of three garbage bins, where you can dispose of your plastic, paper, or glass garbage. This your best bet. Just look for a Family Mart, or a 7/11, and go empty your pockets!
  2. Next to street food kiosks. When you buy your takoyaki or yakitori on the street, the vendors will usually have a little garbage bin for patrons to toss their plates and napkins in
  3. Vending machines. They will have a small receptacle, about the size of the largest product for which it sells. Just big enough to slip that in, and not accept any other foreign trash.  
  4. Your home.
  5. Give it to your friend.

That is it!

The Benefits?

Are there benefits for a municipality to have such a sanitation system? Being not a master of sanitation I cannot tell you.

I will tell you that it is indeed annoying but you do get used to it.

Because the very fabric of Japanese society is based on the concept of ‘do not waste’, you actually end up having less garbage to deal with in your day to day life.

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