Wednesday, November 11, 2009

recycle, reuse and reduce

When I left the metropolis, I realised there were many others who had to say goodbye too. Looking at the number of listings put up by those wanting to sell and/or give away their belongings, a lot of gaijins were definitely impacted by the financial downturn.

When the economy was good and everyone was enjoying life with nary a worry, you might see one posting a day from Craigslist, usually from someone who was going to upgrade his Ikea bed to something sturdier. Or one of the English teachers moving to a new prefecture and not planning to move everything with him.

Throughout this year I noticed that the number of postings spiked up, so much so that no one bothered to hold garage sales anymore. They just opened their house and almost had to plead for people to help themselves to their furniture. Darn, I wish I was the one staying instead!

I like the fact that the foreign, and especially Japanese, community are very conscious of the environment. Recycling is big, every household is expected to separate their garbage and encouraged to be eco-friendly. 2nd hand shops take in unwanted but usable stuff, clean/fix them up, then sell to those who are interested.

When I was a student, I remember joining my other gaijin friends scouring the school bazaar and Book Off's for good bargains. Knowing the Japanese, they take the effort to clean and ensure that what you purchase is still in good condition. A lot of the furniture and electrical items that I had were mostly hand-me-down's and second-hand goods. Like the table above was bought at a steal at only JPY50, and the heater below at no more than JPY500.

It's definitely much fun when living in a student community because the items go around easily. The winter warmers I inherited from a Filipino student were donated to the church for their charity bazaar, the kitchen cabinet and table my Malaysian senpai sent me were given to incoming Indonesian students, the trusty bicycle that brought me around Niigata was passed on to Gene, who had not cycled in his life before.

It was not as easy in Tokyo because everyone lived in different areas, but still possible. For bigger items, you would have to call the Ward Council to collect and dispose of them, for a fee of course. If I were to dispose of my car in Urasa, I would have had to pay JPY30,000 at least. This encourages people to be careful with what they buy and throw. That way, living in Japan is not necessarily expensive.

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