Posts made in March, 2011

Pay It Forward: Japan Recycles and Rebuilds

Posted by on Mar 19, 2011 in Alaska, earthquake, Family, Japan, travel, tsunami | 1 comment

My Japanese family is safe from immediate danger, and living near Osaka, but thoughts of the wonderful Japanese people came to me this morning. When I first saw earthquake video online last week, one impression was that we humans are just like ants, powerless against the forces of nature, swept away by a careless footfall or flood. The Japanese are busily responding to nature’s cataclysm as they tirelessly and selflessly clean up and begin to rebuild their homeland. Having just come from a five-week visit in Japan over the holidays, I have an entirely different perspective than I would otherwise have. I was amused at the newscast where Diane Sawyer pointed out how organized they were in a disaster shelter by putting up a makeshift recycling center. I’m not sure she fully understood how automatic that is for the Japanese. It would be no different than Americans putting out an all-inclusive trashcan. For the Japanese, recycling is a way of life. It’s not something that just a few ecologically conscious souls practice. The entire nation practices constant recycling. They have no choice. That is how the refuse is collected. There is a calendar on the wall above the trashcan in the kitchen which indicates the specific types of trash to be collected on which days. In each home, mall, highway rest area, every public place, there are bins for separating it all. It is an amazing thing to watch, both in their behaviors and on the days the refuse collectors come to pick up the big items, like TVs, computers, furniture, etc. During my entire visit to Japan, there were maybe two public restrooms that had paper towels. The Japanese each carry a small hand towel, about the size of a small washcloth, in a pocket or purse. These are either thin terrycloth or fabric like a heavy-duty handkerchief. At the grocery store you don’t get a nickle credit for bringing your own bag. If you forget to bring your own bags you have to pay a nickle for each plastic bag. That’s the system the USA needs to adopt. After arriving and preparing to depart from Osaka-Kansai airport, I noticed that it is situated on an island in the bay. Strangely, the shape of the island is rectangular. I was told that is because the island was made from refuse and there is one similar in Tokyo Bay also with an airport on top. When I watched some personal video posts that were taken during the earthquake, there was one showing the ground cracking across sidewalks and water seeping up there and across the park in the grass. It seemed strange until the explanation was given that this was an island man-made from rocks built up in the water. I would guess it also included refuse. My first introduction to how the Japanese approach refuse-handling was when Josh, Naho and Yoshifumi (Naho’s brother) came to visit me in 2004 when I was living in Anchorage, Alaska. We had a wonderful visit over the holidays and New Year’s Day was their last day there. In Japanese tradition, all the food for that holiday had been prepared the day before, so Josh and I took the Japanese siblings down Turnagain Arm to Beluga Point to see the wonderful sights. We Americans jumped out of the car and scurried over the railroad tracks, which were scattered with the remnants of fireworks from the night before. We looked back from water’s edge to see Naho and Yoshifumi bending over the railroad tracks, picking up all the trash left by thoughtless Americans. We...

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