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Thread: No Green Party at the Japanese Parliament means a lot

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    No Green Party at the Japanese Parliament means a lot

    Observers of Japanese politics will have noticed the absence of Green Party in Japanese politics. In fact, the Green Party does exist, but nobody seems to care about it, since it does not have a single seat. In comparison, the "Greens" hold up to 15% of the seats in countries like Germany.

    This says a lot about Japanese politicians and Japanese mindset. When I brought up the issue with some Japanese acquaintances, they wondered why there should be a Green Party at all. I explained that the "Greens" did not just care about protecting endangered species, fighting whale-hunting (so dear to Japan), or bothering people about not cutting a nice tree. That is not at all what the Green Party is for. What they want is protecting people's health by passing laws about recycling wastes, reducing industrial pollution, prohibiting the (ab)use of dioxine emitting incinerators, controlling better the quality of food (including stricter test for BSE, etc.), promoting organic food, using cleaner energy (no nuclear or coal power plants...), and so on.

    Japan is one of the few countries in the world to burn most of its rubbish. Just in Tokyo, there are dozens of incinerators in the middle of residential districts, as if they didn't know the dioxine and other toxic emissions caused cancer or other disease to local population. Actually there has been many cases of disease caused by incinerators in Japan, but the government continues to build new ones, against protests by local residents (like the infamous new incinerator in Kyoto).

    The lack of concern regarding health is abherrant in Japanese society. It would be difficult to survey the population about their opinion, asmost people would say they do care about health (and some about environment), but this is mostly a tatemae stance. (tatemae refers to the Japanese custom of saying what is "politically correct" in public, instead of what they really think).

    Signs showing that the opposite is true are everywhere. First of all, organic food is almost unheard of in Japan. That is in sharp contrast to Europe, where about all supermarkets have an "organic food" corner. Secondly, vegetarianism is not only inexistent among Japanese, but is seen as absurd
    by most of them. Again, the rising rate of vegetarians in western countries is a direct consequence of their concern about meat-related disease (dioxin chicken, crazy cows...). Lower consumption of red meat by lots of Westerners are due to the medical studies showing that red meat isn't very healthy, statement which would make a Japanese laugh in disbelief (or poor medical awareness).

    But health issues are not just food or waste-related in Japan. Doctors and hospital have acquired such a bad reputation for medical negligence or outright incompetence that the number of Japanese seking treatment abroad (US, Australia, Europe...) is on the increase. Several books and even TV drama (like "shiroi kyoutou") tackle the issue of poor medical performances in Japan. Scandals involving doctor incompetence resulting in the patients' death make the news on a weekly basis. One of the worst cases was when medical supply companies (including the Japanese Green Cross) contaminated thousands of patients with untreated blood infected by HIV in 1996. One third of all Japanese with AIDS have it due to such medical malpractice.

    That brings us to the issue of AIDS in Japan. Though the rate are low by international and even western standards, it would seem that the number of HIV-infected Japanese is much higher than the official data claim. Japanese just do not want to be tested, and few people admit using condoms. Their reaction towards AIDS tests reflect again the Japanese attitude toward health: as long as it is not clearly apparent and nobody else seem to care too much, why should we be concerned ? The same is true of the BSE or mad cow disease.

    Since BSE was found in Japan 3 years ago, I haven't met a single Japanese who refrained from eating beef (as I do), and most credulously believe that their governement or that of other countries are doing a good job in fighting it - when just a fraction of the bovine population is tested, tests are unreliable and bad results often dissimulated. Once again, they prefer to play the policy of the ostrich and not facing serious problems, rather than be responsible. That is as much true of politicians as of ordinary people.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Dec 23, 2004 at 22:36.

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    Why would Japan need a Green Party? I think that most japanese do not have the leftist/soft sensitivities about preserving nature for nature's sake ( in fact I think that most asian don't have them ). Actually I tend to agree with this stance. What is important is people, and not some tree or a plant, and I find the japanese view very liberating.

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    Regular Member bossel's Avatar
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    Liberating? Only as long as you have some place to live. If you take the liberty to destroy nature, your liberty will be gone completely, sooner or later.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel
    Why would Japan need a Green Party? I think that most japanese do not have the leftist/soft sensitivities about preserving nature for nature's sake ( in fact I think that most asian don't have them ). Actually I tend to agree with this stance. What is important is people, and not some tree or a plant, and I find the japanese view very liberating.
    As I said in my article, the real purpose of a Green Party is not to protect a tree or just nature for its own sake. Its purpose is to protect humans from their own abuse on nature, such as pollution.

    Japan has a history of very bad cases where hundreds of people have been poisoned by chemical wastes and suffer terrible side-effects for decades. There has been many more cases of cancers caused by incinerators, of people radiated because of poor security measures in nuclear plant (in Tochigi, near Tokyo, 4 years ago, for example).

    Another purpose is to check better food for possible toxins (dioxin...) or virus (BSE, avian flu, SARS...), as the ruling LDP in Japan is more like the Bush administration in that they don't really care about people's health as long as the economy works.

    If you can't understand such basic issues, then you still have a long way to mature.

    The point of my article is not that Japan should have a green party, because as long as other parties care about public health we don't need them. The point is the attitude of the average Japanese voter toward health and environmental issues. They just don't care, which is why there couldn't possibly be an active green party if they are not worried about themselves in the first place.

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    Techincally, Japan DOES have a green party - known as Midori no kaigi - basically Enviormental Green Political Assembely. It is ecologist-leftist, as a green party should be. But as Maciamo-san pointed out, the MNK does have no power. In this recent Sangiin election, they had a goal of 1 seat, but did not even get that.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiroshi66
    Techincally, Japan DOES have a green party - known as Midori no kaigi - basically Enviormental Green Political Assembely.
    As I said in my second sentence, there is a green party, but it has no seats at the parliament. My title said the same : "No green party at the Parliament means a lot".

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    Hai, gomen, I misunderstood you. Please forgive me.

    Well, for one thing, most Asians just aren't into leftism, as pointed out. Midori No Kaigi is, actually, my mistake, one of the few conservative, right-wing, ecologist parties. It grew out of Shin-to Sakigake, a reformist breakway of the LDP. But indeed, most Japanese just don't care about ecologism. They put their faith on the LDP and the DPJ.

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    AmericaFlorida TuskCracker's Avatar
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    Why would Japan need a Green Party? I think that most japanese do not have the leftist/soft sensitivities about preserving nature for nature's sake ( in fact I think that most asian don't have them ).
    I think this is true. I lived in Malaysia/Thailand for 2 years
    _.

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    Don't the Social Democrat and Communist parties call themselves "ecologically-concious" political parties?

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiroshi66
    Don't the Social Democrat and Communist parties call themselves "ecologically-concious" political parties?
    First I don't know why you assimilate so different parties as Social Democrat and Communist. But the industry-crazy Communists are certainly among the least ecologically-concious party in world history. Just look at Russia and China during the Communist period. Even a special "party for the destruction of the envrironment" could not have done a better job.

    As for the Socialists, in Europe they tend to be ecologically-concious, but so are other parties.

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    Perhaps I didn't word myself correctly.

    I did not "assimilate so different parties as Social Democrat and Communist", I was reffering to the Japanese Social Democrat and Communist parties. Perhaps at this board I need to refer to them with their Japanese names - the Shakai Minshu-to and the Nihon- (i forgot the word for Communist..). Don't they stand up for ecology to an extent?

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    Regular Member fugue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    First I don't know why you assimilate so different parties as Social Democrat and Communist. But the industry-crazy Communists are certainly among the least ecologically-concious party in world history. Just look at Russia and China during the Communist period. Even a special "party for the destruction of the envrironment" could not have done a better job. As for the Socialists, in Europe they tend to be ecologically-concious, but so are other parties.
    Please don't tell me that you have zero understanding of those prominent leftist parties in Japan and yet were so quick to judge negatively the performance of the entire nation in this issue.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fugue
    Please don't tell me that you have zero understanding of those prominent leftist parties in Japan and yet were so quick to judge negatively the performance of the entire nation in this issue.
    What are you referring to ? I was talking about the difference between socialism and communism in general (in the world).

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    Regular Member fugue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    What are you referring to ? I was talking about the difference between socialism and communism in general (in the world).
    Why are you all of a sudden talking about socialism and communism in general anyway? Does this have anything to do with the underachievement of those leftist parties in Japan regarding environmental issues if at all?

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fugue
    Why are you all of a sudden talking about socialism and communism in general anyway? Does this have anything to do with the underachievement of those leftist parties in Japan regarding environmental issues if at all?
    It doesn't matter whether the leftist parties in Japan are better inclined toward the environment than other parties, because in Europe, almost any major party, be it left, center or right, has at least as much concern for the environment than the most environmentalist Japanese party with seats at the Parliament. For example, there is no significant green party in the UK either, but the British are among the most environment-concious and aninal loving (and not just dogs like in Japan) people in the world. The British did not just invent the Society for the Protection of Animal Rights, Royal Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (which would criticize many selfish Japanese pet owner whose dogs, cats, rabbits of whatever hardly ever go out) or dozens of similar organizations (brief listing here), they do have plenty of laws in this regard too, even without any green party at the UK Parliament. If you compare a bit the laws regarding the protection of the environment i Europe (eg. UK's Environmental Protection Act or the EU's Environment programme) with what exists in Japan, you can only be startled at the difference. Don't just read the introduction, but try to go into details, point by point to understand what I mean. And Japan has already made enormous progress in the last 10-20 years. Before that it was more like China now.

    For example, Japan does recycle its wastes, but the separation is very simple (burnable, non-burnable, bottles). I have been used to a seprartion like :
    1) organic waste
    2) papers
    3) recyclable plastics
    4) other plastics
    5) glass
    6) recyclable metals (eg. tins, cans)
    7) other metals, electronics, etc.
    8) toxic wastes (eg. batteries)

    I know this is how wastes are divided in a country like Belgium ,which has been criticized within the EU as the most unecological EU country. That means other countries do at least as good. But Japan's division of wastes is very superficial. The Lonely Planet Guidebook of Belgium describes it as a densely populated country where nature almost doesn't exist anymore, and mention that "when Belgians think about nature, they think about France, Italy, the USA or Australia, but not Belgium". I have lived for years in Belgium, but I can tell you that the environmental destruction of Japan is much, much worse that anything I have seen in Belgium. In comparison Belgium is an oasis of nature (see why below), even with the same density of population as Japan, and an industrial revolution that started 100 years earlier than Japan.

    Have you ever read the book Dogs & Demons by Alex Kerr ? You will understand what I mean by terrible lack of care for the environment once you have read it. In Japan, all major rivers are damned and concreted, almost any hill or mountain that is not dozens of km away from a residential area (even a bunch of houses) has been reinforced by concrete, so that when you take a drive around Japan, you'd think all the country was made of concrete. The same applies to the coastline.

    That's just for the esthetic issues. What really matters is all the toxic waste deposited in fields that are then sold as agricultural land (Kerr cites several reliable sources), or industrial waste thrown directly in rivers so that local people get extremely painful and debilitating diseases (eg. "Itai-itai-byo", Minamata Disease, etc.). There is a whole chapter in Dogs & Demons if you are interested.

    Another serious health/ecology concern in Japan are incinerators. Everybody knows that burning rubbish create emission of extremely toxic and carcerigenic dioxin, but there are dozens of such incinerators in Tokyo, even in the middle of residential areas. Kerr cites many cases of "high cancer rates" in such neighbourhoods. But instead of phasing them out, the Japanese government continues to build new ones, and again in residential areas, even amidst strong protests from locals (there was a famous case in Kyoto a few years ago, where the government started the construction at night because of protestors during day-time !).

    I will again compare Japan to Belgium, as Belgium was called the worst country in terms of ecologicy in the EU. Japan has had 3, including 2 deadly nuclear plant "accidents" in the last 5 years. Belgium, which has more nuclear plants per sq. km than probably any other country in the world (7 reactors for on a land area 13x smaller than Japan, while Japan has 19 reactors), has never had any to the best of my knowledge. Have look at the history of major nuclear incidents ; it does mention the Tokaimura accident of 1999, and Mihama in 2004, but nothing for anywhere in Belgium). There might have been slight problems in Belgium, but no radiation. I also found this list, with hundreds of cases worldwide. In Japan, it seems that there were not only repeated accidents in Tokaimura (1979, 1986, 1999) and Mihama (1975, 1991, 2004), but also in Sendai (twice in 1991), Fukui (1991), Fukushima (1985, 1993) and Monju (1995) among events from the last 30 years.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Dec 21, 2004 at 15:12.

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    Regular Member fugue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    It doesn't matter whether the leftist parties in Japan are better inclined toward the environment than other parties, because in Europe, almost any major party, be it left, center or right, has at least as much concern for the environment than the most environmentalist Japanese party with seats at the Parliament.... For example, there is no significant green party in the UK either....
    (1) Exactly what is this "most environmentalist Japanese party" you are talking about here, (2) exactly what kind of environmental policy agenda they are advancing, and (3) exactly what's lacking in their concern for the environment?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    The British did not just invent the Society for the Protection of Animal Rights....
    Again, exactly what organization of animal rights in Japan are you talking about? Or are you implying that there exist zero animal rights activists in Japan? If not, how many orgs exists in Japan, what are the leading orgs, what have they (and the government) achieved, and exactly how poor is their performance compared to that of the British and the rest of the world?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    For example, Japan does recycle its wastes, but the separation is very simple (burnable, non-burnable, bottles).
    What exactly is this "Japan" you are talking about? Waste management is mostly left to the discretion of each local municipality under Wastes Disposal and Public Cleaning Law (廃棄物の処理及び清掃に関する法律). In Yamagata waste is sorted into 8 categories, 9 in Utsumnomiya, 12 in Tsu, 15 in Kochi, 12 in Saga, 23 in Minamata, 14 in Miyazaki, 32 in Hekinan among others (cf. http://www.ktv.co.jp/ARUARU/search/arugomi/gomi1.htm). Recyclable waste categories in the city of Hekinan include aluminium cans, steal cans, plastic bottles, sake bottles (glass), beer bottles, colorless bottles, brown bottles, blue and green bottles, black bottles, cigar lighters, polystyrene, hard plastic, newspaper and magazines, clothes, fluorescent bulb, dry batteries, ceramics, glass (cf. http://www.katch.ne.jp/~hiro32/recy/recy002.htm). At national level, Law for Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging (容器包装リサイクル法 effective 1997) specifies 8 recyclable categories: glass, plastic bottles, paper containers, steal cans, aluminium cans, paper packs, cardboard, the first four of which are mandatory to recycle.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fugue
    What exactly is this "Japan" you are talking about? Waste management is mostly left to the discretion of each local municipality under Wastes Disposal and Public Cleaning Law (廃棄物の処理及び清掃に関する法律). In Yamagata waste is sorted into 8 categories, 9 in Utsumnomiya, 12 in Tsu, 15 in Kochi, 12 in Saga, 23 in Minamata, 14 in Miyazaki, 32 in Hekinan among others
    I am referring to the situation in Tokyo, which is by far the largest municipality. What's more I only considered (both for Belgium and Tokyo) the division of wastes forprivate homes, not public or coroprate waste. The 3 categories are the 3 kinds of garbage bags people in Tokyo have to use. Now I have seen rubbish bin (trash cans) in train stations only for newspapers and magazines, but there is no such category of waste in residential wastes. It all goes in burnable. I also didn't check any websites for Europe to ascertain the number of categories as you did. It was just from memory and for residential waste. Tokyo-to and Belgium have the same population (slightly higher for Tokyo-to), so the comparison seems fair.

    I can't believe that I was told to put alcalin batteries or tins with the plastic and other unburnable for instance.

    Quote Originally Posted by fugue
    (1) Exactly what is this "most environmentalist Japanese party" you are talking about here,
    I suppose that any political party can be graded from 0 to 10 from "not at all concerned by the environment" to "very concerned". What I mean is that the Japanese parties (with some actual power to influence things) that are the most concerned about it probably don't rank much better than the average or least concerned in Europe. I believe it is so because everything I have cited above has been allowed to happen by the politicians in power without much debate or opposition. Even if some tiny parties could be very concerned, it appears that too few Japanese care about the environment to elect them to the parliament.

    (2) exactly what kind of environmental policy agenda they are advancing, and
    Sorry, too long to explain. Please follow the links I posted above and compare.

    (3) exactly what's lacking in their concern for the environment?
    I think I have cited the main problems in the above post.

    Again, exactly what organization of animal rights in Japan are you talking about?
    It doesn't matter. What I mean is that they have so little political power and support from the masses that it is still allowed to hunt wales and dolphins (yes, Japanese eat dolphins), and Japanese pet owner are usually too selfish to really care about their pet's well-being. They make their wear-cloth (just a whim) in hot summer, give them "birthday cake" (dogs would certainly prefer a bone or some good meat), or even chocolate (which is a known dog-killer), and many dog-owner in Tokyo keep their dog (or other pet) all day sequestrated inside their house (without garden of course) with at best a 10-20min walk a day for the better halves of these owners. Very selfish indeed.

    Or are you implying that there exist zero animal rights activists in Japan?
    I never said that. It is just less predominant than in Europe, but certainly more than in many other Asian countries (if not all).

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    Regular Member fugue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    I am referring to the situation in Tokyo, which is by far the largest municipality.
    Huh? Tokyo doesn't take care of waste management. Each city within Tokyo (Shinjuku, Nakano, etc.) does individually with its own Domestic Waste Management Plan (一般廃棄物処理計画) as required by Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law (廃棄物の処理及び清掃に関する法律, enacted 1970), of which you are ignorant.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    The 3 categories are the 3 kinds of garbage bags people in Tokyo have to use.... Now I have seen rubbish bin (trash cans) in train stations only for newspapers and magazines...
    So those garbage bags that you could purchase at convini and the trash cans in train stations are your source of information on the waste management issue in Japan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    What I mean is that the Japanese parties.....
    How can you be so judgmental about the "Japanese parties" when you can't even name them?

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fugue
    Huh? Tokyo doesn't take care of waste management. Each city within Tokyo (Shinjuku, Nakano, etc.) does individually with its own Domestic Waste Management Plan (一般廃棄物処理計画) as required by Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law (廃棄物の処理及び清掃に関する法律, enacted 1970), of which you are ignorant.
    There isn't much difference from ward to ward. Just look at the signs outside mentioning what day of the week they collect each kind of refuse. There are only three types of refuse. I haven't checked all 23 wards, but if you know of any ward that has more categories of refuse, please tell me.

    So those garbage bags that you could purchase at convini and the trash cans in train stations are your source of information on the waste management issue in Japan?
    I don't know why you are so obstinate about the waste management part of my posts, when it is one of least important issues I have mentioned. The big problems are/were/have been : damming of all major rivers, hills and coast, toxic incinerators in residential areas (that is also part of waste management but much worse than the sorting problem itself), the disposal of toxic industrial waste in rivers and fields later used for farming, numerous deadly nuclear accidents, and for animal lovers whale and dolphin hunting.

    I am aware that some of these problems have already been tackled or solved. I am not looking only at the situation right now, but for the past few decades.


    How can you be so judgmental about the "Japanese parties" when you can't even name them?
    Even looking at the manifesto of each party, it cannot be trusted because
    1) it is mostly "tatemae" (like in every country, but especially in Japan or Asia)
    2) each politician has a different opinion on the issues. You should know that big parties like the LDP or DPJ are divided in factions.

    What is important is not what politicians say, but what they do. Japanese politicians are notoriously corruped and ineffective. Looking at the situation in Japan, be it economical or ecological, we can see how big the gap between what politicians say and do actually is.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Dec 22, 2004 at 13:04.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    There isn't much difference from ward to ward. Just look at the signs outside mentioning what day of the week they collect each kind of refuse. There are only three types of refuse. I haven't checked all 23 wards, but if you know of any ward that has more categories of refuse, please tell me....
    Give me a break. First the garbage bags and trash cans in train stations, and now the "signs"? And you are criticizing the Japanese of being not environmentally conscious. If the primary source of your knowledge of waste management in your locality is just those signs, that's a serious problem of yourself as an individual, not of Tokyo or Japan. You should call the city office (区役所/市役所) asap to inquire into how to properly sort and dispose waste in your locality and try a little bit harder to be a good member of the communitry before making such a hasty negative judgement of an entire nation with scant, biased knowledge. You are not only ignorant and prejudiced (racially or otherwise) but also could possibly be poisonous to the nation of Japan as you don't seem to sort your own waste properly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    I don't know why you are so obstinate about the waste management part of my posts, when it is one of least important issues I have mentioned.
    The waste management issue is a prime example in your post that shows how full of **** you are. Same goes for leftist political parties and the rest. You surely speak a lot like some kind of authority on a subject that you don't know jack****.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by fugue
    Give me a break. First the garbage bags and trash cans in train stations, and now the "signs"? And you are criticizing the Japanese of being not environmentally conscious. If the primary source of your knowledge of waste management in your locality is just those signs, that's a serious problem of yourself as an individual, not of Tokyo or Japan.
    These "signs" indicate to the citizens what day and time each kind of waste is collected. The only categories in my ward and at least 5 other wards around, are combustible (可燃ごみ), non-combustile (不燃ごみ) and recycleable (リサイクル or 資源) and big stuff (大型ゴミ). That means that even if I want to separate further my waste, it will all end up in one of these three category, depending on the day of the week it is taken.

    As for combini, most of them have 3 or 4 kinds of waste. Usually PET bottles/cans, newspaper/magazines, and others (mixing burnable and non-burnable). Maybe you have just arrived in Japan (considering the comments you make), but for your information, the 7 main "combini" companies have about 35,000 shops in all Japan, which means a lot of rubbish bins, as there are normally no other public rubbish bins than the combni's in many areas. Combini's are also the same everywhere. I have travelled to many regions of Japan, but have never seen combini with more rubbish categories. What I don't understand is that most do not separate burnable and non-burnable (except for recyclables), while domestic waste must be divided that way.

    You should call the city office (区役所/市役所) asap to inquire into how to properly sort and dispose waste in your locality and try a little bit harder to be a good member of the communitry before making such a hasty negative judgement of an entire nation with scant, biased knowledge.
    That you but my wife and in laws are Japanese and taught me exactly what to do. I also discussed the issues of lack of "categories" of waste with many Japanese friends.

    The waste management issue is a prime example in your post that shows how full of **** you are. Same goes for leftist political parties and the rest. You surely speak a lot like some kind of authority on a subject that you don't know jack****.
    Watch your language. So far you have not been able to provide any additional information I asked about some Tokyo wards having more than the 3 above mentioned categories of waste. You criticize a lot but in fact you are the one you doesn't seem to know what you are talking about.

    Here are a few examples of waste management. It's only a quick Google search. I took the first cities coming.

    Kumamoto City, Kyushu has only 3 categories, but 7 subcategories for the recyclable (ペットボトル , びん類, トレイ , 布類 , 紙類 , 古金物類 , 缶類) although the refuse collectors take all of them the same day (and mix them in the same truck or come with 7 different trucks ?).

    But indeed that seem to vary a lot from one municipality to another. In Yabuzuka, Gunma, they are all clearly separated, something I haven't seen in Tokyo.

    Tochio city, Niigata has 5 categories.

    Shingu city, Hyogo has 4 categories with apparently 3 subcategories for recyclables.

    So there are big differences from one municipality to another.

    In Tokyo, I found that Katsushika-ku had 5 categories, Toshima-ku 4 categories, Suginami-ku 3 categories, Shinagawa-ku, etc. Complete list of wards' sites here.

    Now it could be my misunderstanding, but if all wastes of one kind (eg. 不燃ごみ) are taken the same day, I suppose that everything is crushed together in the refuse truck (plastic, batteries, metal, gum, glass, leather...). I don't expect them to open all bags and separate all the various materials by hand. I admit not being an expert in refuse collecting or recycling, but as it seems to be your domain of predilection, you may give me more detailed info on whether all wastes of one category ends up in the same place, or if they try everything. For example, even paper has to be put in plastic bags here, but is considered 燃えるごみ. So do they open each bag carefully and take only the paper out for recycling (or burning) or do they just trash the paper and plastic together ?
    Last edited by Maciamo; Dec 22, 2004 at 22:51.

  22. #22
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Here is interesting article from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung which summarize well the ecological problem I am talking about.

    Nuclear issue

    According to investigative reports, the Japanese nuclear power industry's worst accident to date, which occurred on 30 September last year at the Tokaimura nuclear facility not far from Tokyo, was triggered by a chain of events unimaginable in its primitivity. Highly dangerous substances were mixed together by hand by workers taking no safety precautions, resulting in an uncontrolled chain reaction. According to an agency dispatch from Washington early this year, the United States plans to go to court to force a privately run waste processing plant near its Atsugi naval base near Tokyo to cease operations. The facility is releasing highly toxic dioxin into the environment, and repeated American protests to the Japanese authorities have thus far proved useless. Not long ago, only after weeks of controversy, Japan repatriated containers with highly dangerous waste from the Philippines; the transfer had clearly violated the Basel Convention on the Control of Cross-Border Shipments of Hazardous Waste, of which Japan is a signatory. These three incidents convey a picture which is difficult to reconcile with Japan's usual image as a modern, efficient society.
    The bright side

    Arriving in Tokyo from other major Asian cities, one is immediately struck by the general cleanliness. The Japanese capital may not be able to compete with Singapore in that regard, but it certainly can with Hong Kong, where there is still plenty of Third World poverty in evidence, where water pollution makes you avoid eating shellfish and monstrous air pollution makes breathing difficult. The people of Tokyo like to point out that their air quality has improved greatly, even though it is still far from the targeted level of purity.
    I completely agree with that. Tokyo has progressed a lot regarding air pollution, and the air is now almost as pure as in a little country town. I used to get headaches from the pollution in London, but nothing like that in Tokyo, even bycicling between cars. I also agree about the traces of 3rd world poverty, esp. the near slums (corrugated iron or old crumbling wooden houses) in some shitamachi areas. However, that is not related to the ecology.

    Minamata stands as an ominous memorial to environmental irresponsibility and official secrecy and incompetence. Mercury released into the sea was first noted in 1956 as a cause of illness in Minamata, yet it took all of 11 years before the government acknowledged it. In the interim, those affected were subjected to criminal administrative pressures. The Minamata catastrophe lent considerable impetus to civic movements for environmental and consumer concerns. Japan scholar Karel van Wolveren terms that country's movement against industrial poisoning of the environment the most successful of Japan's civic groups operating outside the framework of traditional political parties and professional associations.
    Good to hear there has been some measures taken by indivduals. But why do people have to fight against the government and companies, while the government (in Europe more than the US, as the US is far from being an reference in terms of ecology) is supposed to protect people from unscupulous profit-motivated companies.

    Japan lagging behind

    On the whole, however, the development of ecological awareness and environmental protection in Japan is a very slow process. At the legislative level, there have been three milestones so far: In 1967, basic rules for regulating environmental pollution were formulated, with responsibility assigned to various levels of government and quality standards established; in 1993 these regulations were fine-tuned and their areas of application extended; and finally, two years ago criteria were laid down for evaluating the environmental impact of large-scale projects.

    But there are still substantial gaps in the system. Among the most prominent problems is pollution by chemical substances, especially dioxin and asbestos. Strict regulations on effluents have helped improve water quality in recent years, but experts warn against ongoing pollution by organic substances and the increasing temperatures of open bodies of water due to high-temperature effluents from nuclear power plants. This latter factor is even threatening to seriously harm coastal fisheries.
    Again, there has been progress, but like for social issues (sexual harassment, women liberation, paid holidays, tolerance toward gays, people with AIDS, etc.), Japan seem to be 10 to 30 years late (depending on the issue) on many other developed countries.

    No green party!

    That's a coincidence that I should stumble on this :

    A look at the two chambers of the Japanese parliament shows that, in contrast to many other industrialized nations, there is no organized green party in this country. As a result of Japan's economic difficulties during the past decade, all leading political parties now emphasize economic policy, while individual citizens are moved largely by concern for their pensions and, most recently, their jobs. In addition, the energies of the ambitious middle classes are largely consumed by long working hours, endless commutes, expensive schooling for the children, and the constant pressure not to fall behind the living standard of one's neighbors. Aside from election times, the average Japanese concerns him- or herself only marginally with politics, a fact further emphasized by the lack of stature of most Japanese politicians.
    Domestic vs industrial garbage

    All of which does not mean that people are indifferent to environmental issues on specific occasions. There are local protests against environmental pollution and local initiatives against ecologically problematic projects. Of the nine national surveys which have been conducted so far at local level in Japan, several have been about environmental issues. And people's close ties to neighborhood and community often have a positive impact on the environment. But it is a huge step from concern for cleanliness and organized garbage disposal in one's immediate neighborhood to resolving the waste disposal problems of a modern industrial society.

    Especially in the large urban agglomerations, Japan is on the verge of drowning in the detritus of prosperity. Though not as extensively as the Germans, the Japanese do emphasize waste disposal designed to facilitate recycling. In every neighborhood, people keep a careful lookout to insure that refuse is separated according to regulations. But there is a widespread lack of realization that the avoidance of unnecessary junk is even more valuable ecologically than its recycling. There are certainly places with a lower level of environmental awareness, but nowhere is one flooded every day with such a mass of packaging materials. It is symptomatic that a 1970 law, issued when waste disposal was beginning to be a serious problem, concerns itself only with responsibility for garbage removal but not with methods for reducing its sheer quantity.
    Here is the contentious point with Fugue. Even if some municipalities may have done a lot of progress, that is still too small and many big cities (Tokyo, Kyoto...) have more serious problems than not dividing wastes in enough categories. As I said, the major issue is the incinerators.

    Incidentally, I have also lived in Germany, and I think there is less difference in the waste sorting between Germany and Belgium than one of these countries and Tokyo. That certainly explains why I found the Tokyo sorting a bit simple. This article confirms.

    This article mentions only a tiny fractions of the problems raise by Alex Kerr in Dogs & Demons' 2 first chapters.

  23. #23
    Regular Member fugue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    These "signs" indicate to the citizens what day and time each kind of waste is collected. The only categories in my ward and at least 5 other wards around, are combustible (可燃ごみ), non-combustile (不燃ごみ) and recycleable (リサイクル or 資源) and big stuff (大型ゴミ).
    Originally you were saying ``there are only three types of refuse,'' ``separation is very simple (burnable, non-burnable, bottles)'' in Japan. What are these two categories newly popping up all of sudden? And what kind of ridiculous category is this ``recyclable'' anyway? How could this possibly be a single category? Are you supposed to put all kinds of ``recyclable'' waste ranging from newspapers to glass bottles together in one bag or what?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    So far you have not been able to provide any additional information I asked about some Tokyo wards having more than the 3 above mentioned categories of waste.
    Why are you asking me? You should have known very well the ``additional information'' if you are living in Tokyo and complaining about Japan's waste management in the first place. Shinjuku city homepage explains in detail how to sort and prepare your waste and where to put for collection in Shinjuku-ku, for an example. The waste categories include:
    1. burnable (可燃ごみ)
    2. nonburnable (不燃ごみ)
    3. recyclable: waste papers (資源:古紙類)
    4. recyclable: bottles, cans (資源:びん・缶)
    5. recyclable: dry batteries (資源:乾電池)
    6. recyclable: paper packs (資源:紙パック)
    7. recyclable: plastic bottles (資源:ペットボトル)
    8. bulky (粗大ごみ)
    9. others: air conditioners, TV, refrigerators, washers (その他:エアコン・テレビ ・冷 庫・洗濯機)
    10. others: home computers (その他:家庭系パソコン)

    Note that these are all separate categories. In some categories you have to sort further into sub-categories. For example, you cannot mix up newspapers, magazines, and cardboard even though they fall under the same ``waste paper.''

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    In Tokyo, I found that Katsushika-ku had 5 categories, Toshima-ku 4 categories, Suginami-ku 3 categories, Shinagawa-ku, etc. Complete list of wards' sites here.
    Here again, you originally didn't even know each city manages waste individually on its own rather than collectively by the national government. Anyway, you counted categories wrong above. Katsushika-ku has at least 7 categories (burnable, nonburnable, bulky, electric appliances, paper, bottles, cans) according to their website; Toshima-ku 17 categories (burnable, nonburnable, bulky, electric appliances, furniture, bottles, cans, plastic bottles, cardboard, thick paper boxes, wrapping papers, milk packs, styrol, plastic containers, newspapers, magazines, clothes); Suginami-ku 8 categories (burnable, nonburnable, bulky, computers, electric appliances, plastic bottles, paper packs, batteries).

    What city in Tokyo has only 3 categories? In what city do you live anyway?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    It's only a quick Google search.
    That's a good start, considering you knew practically nothing earlier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    That means that even if I want to separate further my waste, it will all end up in one of these three category.
    All these years? That's bad.

  24. #24
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fugue
    Shinjuku city homepage explains in detail how to sort and prepare your waste and where to put for collection in Shinjuku-ku, for an example.
    Shinjuku seems to have more categories than the others I mentioned. Anyway, what I meant was the number of sepate days they took the garbage, and you still didn't answer whether they put all the PET bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, etc in the same truck or not. We do place the cardboard sparately (we keep them in on rainy days), but there is only one bag for cans and PET bottles and even tins, for instance. But as the refuse collector take the PET bottles, etc and the cardboard the same day, does that all end up in the same truck (I have never watched them take the garbage, but maybe you have). What I mean is that it is useless having 7 subcategories for recyclable if they put all in the same truck because they do not separate the days.

    And you still haven't talked about the important points. May I remind you that you criticized me for not knowing what I was talking about when I referred to Japan's ecological problems, but once I get an article that supports my facts (actually my facts already come from some books and newspaper articles), it seems that you loose your voice and try to divert the attention on a topic that wasn't important since the beginning, that is to say waste sorting.

  25. #25
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    What are these two categories newly popping up all of sudden?
    Two new ? I said that there were the following categories in my ward :
    1) combustible (可燃ごみ)
    2) incombustible (不燃ごみ)
    3) recyclable (資源)
    4) bulky (大型ごみ )

    I forgot to count 大型ごみ because it is not usual to dipose of one's fridge, TV or air conditioner (I have never done it in Japan) and it's not what I would usually call "waste" or "rubbish".

    Apparently, Shinjuku has a more efficient recycling method than my ward.
    In my ward, ordinary paper goes in 可燃ごみ. Only cardboard and newspapers/magazines goes to 資源 (along with PET bottles, cans and other bottles). Of course, people place bottles, cans, cardboards and newspapers separately at the waste collection point, but all end up in the same truck. So, unless they do separate everything manually afterwards, there is little point in having subcategories.

    My point is that in the EU countries where I have lived, there are special containers in every neighbourhood to dispose of glasses, and even these are separated in white glasses and coloured glasses. This is not new. I have always known it since I was a child. In Japan, some places have similar containers (quite far away from my house) and the one I have seen had all types of glasses are in one containers. I have also been used to having special places in the neighbourhood to dispose of newspapers and magazines, rather than just leave them for the refuse collector.

    In my ward, dry batteries go to 不燃ごみ with no special recepticle, along with metals, platsics, glass, rubber, leather, etc. I have attached a picture below.

    I admit that I may have overlooked the fact that each municipality had different waste management, but that is because it doesn't make much sense that even in the same city, one ward has 17 categories and the next one only 4 or 5. There is a need of harmonization here. That also doesn't solve the problem of the easy sorting of wastes in the 35,000+ "combini" throughout Japan, not the more alarming industrial waste issues and the way the 可燃ごみ are burnt in incinerators in residential areas.
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