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The Big Tokyo Trash Mystery

The Big Tokyo Trash Mystery
Illustration by Francois Amoretti

Tokyo. Where else in the world can you find a city that is so clean and that at the same time has so few trash cans? It doesn't seem possible.

Say you go to the convenience store to buy an obento. After consuming your meal you end up with the following trash inventory: One plastic shopping bag, one plastic top and one bottom tray to the obento, two chopsticks, one paper wrapping for the chopsticks, one toothpick and its paper wrapper, that funny green, serrated plastic stuff that separates certain foods and looks like grass, one foil cup for the oshinko (pickled radish), one wet towelette and its plastic outer wrapper and one receipt. That's 13 items and that's a lot of trash for one trip to the combini.

Now go looking for a trash can. You will not find one. You may find a standing ash can for cigarette butts (it will be full and smoking like an incense burner on steroids), or even some of those recycling bins that have specifically shaped entry holes, but of course you would never put unauthorized trash in there-would you?

So let's review. Tokyo. Lots of trash. No trash cans. No litter on the streets.

In order to solve this mystery, I did some checking around. Based on my exhaustive investigative efforts leaving no stone unturned, I was finally able to determine where all the trash goes. And if you are one of the thousands of bicyclists in Tokyo who park their bicycles on the Tokyo sidewalks (illegally - receiving threatening yellow tags attached to your handlebars) during the day I am here to stand up and say "thank you." For it seems that all of Tokyo's mystery trash is ending up in your bicycle baskets. So next time you are in need of a trash can, just head for the nearest unaccompanied bicycle and deposit your gomi freely and unashamedly where it belongs - in the black mesh basket on the front of the handlebars.

In a way, it seems all too fair. There's a shortage of legal areas to park bicycles. So, riders break the rules by parking their bicycles in unauthorized areas. Instead of getting a fine or getting their bicycles impounded, they earn the right to park by being punished with the duty of busing Tokyo's trash out of the city. Something tells me an office full of city planners spent some serious time figuring out this scheme.

The Tokyo trash mystery is solved. Now you know.

Many thanks to sleuth Craig Briggs for this Rant.

Metropolis Online
349: Life in the cycle lane
Playing chicken with a ladybike
348: Daisuki na Tokyo
Tokyo's my favorite!
347: Nihongo dake!
Why am I not fluent in Japanese yet?
346: People make the city
The beauty of Tokyo's people
345: Cross Training
Commuting by train in Tokyo
344: Yellow Line Fever
A guide for the blind... and a pain in the neck
343: Welcome to Tokyo
What did you bring me?
342: Positive thinking
Three reasons why we love Japan
341: I'm a rounder...
Veterans of Japan vs. Japan rookies
340: Discard your bank cards
The labour of replacing lost bank cards
339: Shoganai...
It can't be helped
338: Respect your environment
Poluution problem in Tokyo
337: Strike Three - You're Enlightened
How omiyage ruins a vacation
336: Missing manners
No manners outside of Japan
335: Goodbye jitensha
Is stealing bikes a popular pastime in Japan?
334: War of the Words
English borrows from other languages too!
333: ENGLISH ONLY, please
Don't bother writing your name in Japanese
332: A menu carved in stone
No special requests for lunch!
331: The Zen of Looking Busy
The art behind faking work
330: Lyrical Phlegm
Japan's spitting dilemma
329: Rock harder, Japan
Big, bad and ugly concerts
328: Noise Deficiency
The unrelenting quiet that is not Japan
327: Chopstick Diplomat
Constant questioning = constant answering
326: Game over
Cutting off the game for regular scheduled program
325: Grown pains
The hooligan behavior of middle-aged salarymen
324: The Price of Fame
Young teen actors light up on-screen
323: A Customary Affair
The universal language of consumerism
322: Robber barons
JR steals from the rich.. and the poor
321: Tegami Or Not Tegami
Deny the letter to save money
320: The Garbage Men
Variations of the "salaryman"
319: Holidaze
Japan - Home of the lamest holidays in the world
318: Box your ears
Be the karaoke star you've always dreamed of
317: The winter of my discontent
No oden if it's spring please!
316: The Bells
Going insane from bells and voices
315: The Big Tokyo Trash Mystery
No garbage cans + too much garbage= a clean city?
314: The Kamikaze Spirit
The war may be over but the spirit lives on
313: Movie Mania
Laughing alone in the corner
312: Geek parade
What's going on with gaijin men?
311: Gleaming gomi
Rinse it out before you throw it out
310: Lower Mathematics
Teaching practical mathematical equations
309: Escalator clots
Blocking the flow of escalator traffic
308: Sky's the limit
Favorite channel on the hit list
307: Bring on the studmuffins
Thanks to the "Men looking for women"
306: Burning Rubber
Narrowly averting bicycle collisions
305: Fishy Business
The sushi wasn't dead
304: The Invisible Gaijin
When gaijins collide
303: Talk work only
The Japanese perception of idleness
302: From kotatsu, with love
A blanket covered electric coffee table
300: Why 2K?
The millennium bug ain't no big deal

ISSUES 350-381
ISSUES 250-299

ISSUES 233-249