I Am White Trash

This was the first post I wrote, way back when I first arrived. I didn’t actually post it anywhere though. It’s a little out of date, but hey, I’m not perfect.

  1. I live in a tiny apartment surrounded by farmland.
  2. My tiny garden is full of trash – bags of rubbish, piles of cardboard, assorted broken electronics (including a tv).
  3. I mostly wear a vest and knickers.
  4. I have given up religion, save the worship of the aircon unit.
  5. I am illiterate.

How did this happen? I used to live in the capital city of a European country! I used to frequent wine bars! I used to work in finance! I used to commute goddamnit!

I moved to Japan. To a small rural town.

Why? Well, for the laugh. Teaching English seemed like a fun thing to do while I’m still young and child/mortgage-free, so I ditched the hated job in finance, packed some stuff, and here I am.

One piece of advice – if you are not from a hot country, do not move to Japan in summer. It’s hot. Like 35C. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so damp. It’s the humidity that’s giving me this headache, not the heat. So, that’s why I only wear clothes to go outside (oh irony – it’s hotter outside than in the apartment). Incidentally, the humidity also means that even though the temperature is in the 30s (celsius), most of my clothes have been hanging on the line for three days. And they’re still wet. As for point 4, I wasn’t religious before I came here, but now, that aircon unit is the object of all my praise.

Every single morning I wake up and thank the god of electrical appliances for the happy invention of air conditioning. I would happily work anywhere, ANYWHERE, so long as it has aircon. I know that when winter comes I’ll have abandoned my new found love in favour of some sort of heating, but for now, it’s my baby. I am so grateful to the god of electrical appliances that I can easily forget about the pile of broken items littering the garden. Anyway, it’s not his fault. It’s the Japanese.

I used to be a recycling evangelist. I used to take the plastic off my cigarette packets and put the cardboard bit in the recycling bin, and the plastic in with the trash. I dutifully rinsed out the milk cartons. I pontificated to my mother who refused to bother, about saving the planet, or money, depending on my mood. Now, I want to abandon it all. Refuse is collected every weekday, and it’s a different kind every day. There is no regular trash here. There’s burnables, non-burnables, plastic recyclables, cans, glass and PET bottles (drink bottles).

There’s no way to tell what goes in what bin. Obviously, bottles go in the bottle bin, but what about the caps? And the labels? Recyclable plastic? Burnable? There’s nothing like standing over your five bins with a bottle cap in your hand, fretting over which bin to put it in to make you feel like an outsider. Note to the Japanese – Everything is burnable! Just turn up the heat!

And it’s not like you can just chuck it and forget about it. Noooo. Trash isn’t collected from your house. You have to put it in a clear plastic bag (throwing out something embarrassing? Everyone knows….), label it, and then bring it to your trash centre. Which could be a 15 minute cycle from your house. Imagine cycling through your Japanese town with a stinking bag of rubbish clutched in one hand, sweating in the heat and humidity. You used to work in finance? Now your hair is a scrubby bush, you’re drenched in sweat, and there’s bin juice on your flip-flop clad foot. Welcome to humility.

Sometimes, your bag won’t be collected, it’ll be deposited back on your doorstep. Clearly, you’ve put something in the bag that shouldn’t be there, but there’s no explanation. You just have to figure it out. Which means going through the rubbish, because they won’t collect it until it’s fixed. Or, you can just put it in your back garden and forget about it. See point 2.

All this could probably be easily solved, if only you could speak Japanese. Or, failing that, read. In most countries, with the help of a dictionary (or the internet) you can figure out most things. But getting a leaflet about the trash and it being filled with little picture things like this 余帯? You’re sort of screwed. It’s not like you can just type it into google translate. And living in the inaka means there’s noone to ask. So, you just stumble on, hoping that some day you’ll figure it out. Meanwhile, your garden fills up with bags and all the locals know you as the white person with all the trash.

I am white trash.


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