Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What a Load of Garbage! (Well, maybe not...)

We're plagued by shortages again.

No, it's not oil. Gasoline may be expensive (though down a bit from a few weeks ago), but there's still plenty at the pump. No, we're being hit much closer to home.

It's not butter, either. You may recall my posting not long ago about the sudden butter shortage. That seems to have corrected itself for the time being.

It's not even rice. Even despite the bizarre weather and the sight of many rice paddies with drooping crops (a result of too much rain and not enough sun...and generally means a poor result) there has been no warning of a crunch like the one we had back in the late 90s. Safeguards are already in place, and everything is status quo as far as Japan's primary staple is concerned.

So what is the commodity that we're suddenly lacking?

Garbage bags. Yes, you read that right.

You see, ever since around 1995 we have been obligated to buy and use garbage bags officially approved by the city in which we live. You can't use generic bags or ones from a different location; the garbageman won't take them. Since we live in Namegata City, we're forced to buy the Namegata City bags.

The problem is that the city announced a little more than a week ago that, beginning October 1st, the price of the bags is going up 50% (most likely as a way for the city to ease its bloating debts). I think you can guess what happened. Needless to say, it has become well nigh impossible to find garbage bags anywhere in the city. Even my father-in-law has been spending his days driving around trying to find them. (Today he proudly handed us a bundle that he'd found and bought at a 7-11 out on one of Namegata's many country roads. They were all small-sized ones, though, so they don't fit our garbage cans.) The frustrating thing is that our local supermarket has plenty of bags for the neighboring city of Itako, and they're cheaper to boot, but we can't use them. We just have to grit our teeth and use these undersized bags for a while...and then pay the markup price when they run out.

It's amazing just how much you learn to appreciate things once they're no longer available.

Speaking of which, we are in the middle of a shortage of something else: bananas. A popular TV program recently conducted an experiment in which famously bloated celebrities each tried a different recently-famous diet and then compared the results. The one who lost the most weight and generally became healthier was the actress/comedian trying the banana diet. Suddenly all the bananas were gone, and we've yet to see a single bunch in any store since that program aired more than a week ago.

It's amazing just how much things we take for granted become hot items once they've been given a bit of publicity.

What's going to disappear from the store shelves next? Beer? (NO-O-O-O-O!!!!!!!!)


  • interesting that you guys have different garbage bags for different cities. what's the reasoning behind that?

    the thing i liked about this garbage bag story was how your FIL brought some bags for you all. even though they're the wrong size... at least you can use them.

    what do you do when/if all bags run out? are you allowed to start using the other cities' bags or what?

    it's no fun to run outta beer... we went the wk before ramadan to stock up and it seemed that most of bahrain had same idea for the shelves were bare... nada, nothing. and i'll tell ya... this has been the longest, dang month!! ;)

    By Blogger Um Naief, at 3:57 AM  

  • So you are about to run out of garbage bags...

    we're about to run out of money!

    By Anonymous Dave, at 6:43 AM  

  • There are many good things about Japan, but the regional garbage bag is just about the stupidest thing I've heard outside of American media (which, honestly, nobody can hope to compete with our stupidity).

    I'd be half-inclined to dump my garbage in the yards of the people who came up with such an inane idea.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 2:21 PM  

  • The reason for the regional garbage bags is mainly because, since the early to mid 90s, we also have regional garbage laws. Some cities require you to separate your plastics out and put them in a separate bag (or, as in here in Namegata, in a provided basket) along with your recyclable cans and bottles. Other cities tell you to put the plastics with the burnable garbage.

    I think it mainly has to do with the available disposal services. Kashima, for example, has a fairly new high-tech, high-temperature incinerator that can reportedly burn plastics without giving off dioxin. Therefore, Kashima treats plastics as burnable trash (though at Ye Olde Academy we still stubbornly put our PET bottles in with the recyclables). Namegata also has a couple of new, high-tech incinerators, but because it's an agricultural area (with VERY vocal farmers) plastics are always separated out rather than burned. Itako, on the other hand, uses landfills, so their bags have a different chemical composition (as in biodegradable rather than designed to burn).

    And no, we're not allowed to use other regions' bags no matter what. The only alternative would be to take our own trash directly to one of the "clean centers".

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:36 PM  

  • NOT bananas!!! Especially DANCING bananas!! If they ran out of those, there wouldn't be as much... um... dancing!!

    By Blogger DewKid, at 6:57 AM  


    By Anonymous Some German guy, at 11:39 AM  

  • Thank goodness we don't have Santa Fe garbage bags. They would no doubt picture pink coyotes howling at the moon.

    I believe I would be ill after one day of the banana diet. I like bananas, but I don't LOVE them. Unless they're served as following: split, accompanied by three large scoops of ice cream, smothered with hot fudge sauce and chopped nuts, then a mountain of whipped cream. And, of course, a cherry on top. Would that be on the banana diet? If so, where do I sign?

    By Blogger San, at 5:09 AM  

  • San
    Pink coyotes....? {8-O

    Actually, the banana diet they demonstrated on that TV program consisted of the person having only a (as in one) banana and water for breakfast and then having one banana an hour before dinner. Other than that, the lady was eating anything she wanted, including steak, massive ice cream sundaes, beer, or whatever. She lost far more weight over the same period than any of the participants trying other diets.

    What was really amazing was that this particular actress/comedian has ALWAYS been known for being more than a bit roly-poly, but you could really see the difference. For the first time ever in her TV history (which has spanned most of the 18 years I've been in Japan) she actually had a chin!

    Two bananas a day plus anything else she wanted. Unbelievable...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:31 AM  

  • altho it may be a pain, i really like that japan does this w/ respect to recycling.

    burning of plastics still doesn't sound good. makes me wonder if bahrain plans to do the same.

    oddly enough, i think more countries ought to make it a law rather than a choice. *thinking out loud* how does one enforce such a law? do they go thru your garbage? are there garbage monitoring police? ;)

    i like it really. maybe more ppl would start getting into the spirit of things here ... if they were fined otherwise....

    By Blogger Um Naief, at 2:03 AM  

  • The reason for the shortage *here* is flooding in Costa Rica...or Nicaragua...or wherever bananas come from at the moment. There was a letter explaining the situation and the reason for raised prices posted beside the banana cart at the grocery store last week.

    Not even going to touch the garbage bag issue. Japan is driving me crazy through your blog at the moment because as you can imagine I have little patience for endless little restrictions. Even those that call themselves superstitions!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 12:13 PM  

  • Gee! That's tough, running out of garbage bags.

    That banana diet sounds like a good deal for those watching their weight.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 6:25 PM  

  • In England now....were trying to get garbage bags (bin bags to us((if your wife throws you out you've been "bin bagged" (thats what you put all your belongings in lol))) we now have wheely bins,bottle bins and another small one for food waste not to mention a bag for old news papers,Banana diet doesent sound good,they are high in fat?

    By Blogger Gaz, at 10:01 AM  

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