Get your gomi to the curb

The gomi piles up but remains sorted (courtesy w00kie at Flickr Creative Commons, click photo to see his Japan page)

The gomi piles up but remains sorted (courtesy w00kie at Flickr Creative Commons)

It must be the New Year, because I wanna clear stuff out.

I want it gone; recycled, donated or sitting at the curb, out of the house.

I’m getting rid of the gomi (trash.)

In Japan, the everyday sorting and organizing of your gomi is a big deal and very complex.  There are special bags for certain items, particular days to put each item out for pick-up, and specific hours of the day when you can put it out.

Directions for all this are provided, written in kanji, of course.

Good luck with that.

When I lived in Japan, most other Americans around me were quite flummoxed by what went into which bag when, despite their best efforts to sort it all out.

Very early January, though, was a gomi bonanza of good stuff, because the Japanese are all about “out with the old, in with the new” to start shogatsu, the new year with fresh, new items.  Still-working appliances, TV sets, audio/visual gear, kitchenware, etc., often in excellent condition, are dispatched to the curb as gomi.

I knew many Americans who had quite a streak of Yankee thriftiness and simply couldn’t pass up the chance to liberate “perfectly good things going to waste.”  No one ever said we couldn’t pick up gomi, but somehow we just knew that our very regimented, orderly Japanese neighbors would be pretty horrified.  There was a lot of surreptitious driving around in the wee early morning hours, jumping out and grabbing things from the curb and then driving home to gloat.

British expat Nick Ramsay toted trash around for literally years before he figured out what to do with it.  Expat w00kie’s Japanese apartment building was drowning in garbage by January 2nd, because of oddly-scheduled early January trash services.

For those who miss the chance to shed gomi in January, don’t worry.  The Japanese festival of Setsubun (also called “bean-throwing”) is coming up in early February, and it’s good for getting rid of mental gomi.

Setsubun traditionally features ceremonies to toss out evil influences in the form of special fuku mame beans, and then shout “Fuku wa uchi!” to welcome in good fortune.  Some temples and shrines have a bonfire, and you can buy wooden items to represent the year and then toss that “year” and its trials or tribulations into the bonfire.

All of your troubles, up in smoke.

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  1. Antonia Malchik January 11, 2008
  2. Sheila January 15, 2008

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