I'm going to start occasionally writing blogs where I talk about something that I really like about Japan and then something that pretty much drives me crazy.
Cleanliness: Japan is clean. Really clean. When I ride my bike to the station, every morning unless it is pouring rain, people are outside in front of their businesses sweeping and raking and making everything clean at the start of the day. These are not custodians or someone who was hired to do that job, but the people who work at that business. Men and women in suites and ties outside cleaning in front of the bank or clothing store or whatever it is. The employees keep it clean. I think this stems from the students being responsible for keeping the schools clean. I think it's an awesome idea and I think it teaches kids to be much cleaner since they know they they might be the one cleaning up the mess. I think it teaches them to respect property.
When it's raining, most businesses have umbrella covers out side so you don't drip your wet umbrella across their clean floors. At many businesses, you take your shoes off at the door and use the clean slippers provided. Public bathrooms are spotless including places like train stations public shopping areas. Japan has an amazingly small amount of litter for a country with such a dense population.
Public transportation is very clean. I've used the trains in Europe and Greyhound buses in the US when I was in collage. Comparatively, the Japanese trains are spotless. The seats are clean the windows are clean. It is a culture that really appreciates things being clean. I'm a bit of a neat freak and a germ-a-phobe so this makes me really happy. I have visited dirty countries (Cambodia comes to mind) but I'd hate to live in one.
Trash: With that being said, you would think that Japan would make it easy for people in public places to dispose of garbage so that they would not litter. This is very much not the case.
Japan has a very complicated trash/recycle system. At home we have 5 different cans to sort trash and there are 7 different trash collection types that are rotated on a schedule. The attention to detail that is expected is very high. For example all plastic labels must be removed from plastic bottles and are put in separate containers, all plastic must be removed from envelopes, tissue boxes and juice cartons with the screw spout. The trash deconstruction process is sometimes extensive and most containers have detailed instructions on how they are supposed to be recycled. If you get a group of expats together for more than 5 minutes, someone will complain about the trash.
It's not just the sorting process but also that there is no place to put it other than keep it in your house. I made the mistake of making shrimp on the wrong day once (and only once). It was shrimp that came with the tails on it so we threw out the tips of the tails. After 2 days the whole apartment stank like low tide. Unlike the US, we don't have an outside can to put stinky things (I'm really dreading what I'm going to do with diapers but I figure that out when we get there). In the US, when ever we had something that we knew would be smelly, we would just put it in the big outside can and it was no problem. Now, part of meal planning is knowing what day which type of trash goes out.
I love getting packages but I hate dealing with the packaging. Cardboard only goes out once a month and it has to be folded and bundled with limits on all dimensions. The peanuts and other packing material are always difficult to get rid of.
Going back to public places, there are very few public trash cans. If you drink a bottle of water chances are you will have to carry that bottle around for a couple of hours before you find a proper place to dispose of it. In the US people would just litter but in Japan people seem to carry their trash around for ages until they can find a public can. I'm amazed at how clean the shopping areas are where food is sold but there are no easily accessed trash cans. I have gotten frustrated by this on numerous occasions. There I was after eating my delicious meat on a stick, suck with the stick.
That's all for now. :-)