Fly tipping in Japan

Ross Hall

July 4, 2021
(Updated on September 22, 2021)

Photograph of abandoned white goods in Kobe, with plants growing up and around it

Japan has a much-deserved reputation for being clean and tidy. Although there are few bins, little litter is seen on the streets. A walk in the local park isn’t accompanied by the usual plastic bottles and bags I was used to in the UK. All of this without bins on every street corner.

We just take our rubbish home.

Yet Japan is not perfect. Look and you will see discarded waste. You will see the legions of (mostly) elderly people picking up trash either because that’s their job, or they take an interest in their surroundings. More than once I’ve seen kids from the local school on rubbish collection duty in our streets. I’ve found myself picking up forgotten bottles.

Photograph of an abandoned bicycle under a flyover in Japan, covered in plants
A bicycle left to rot under a fly-over in Kobe, Japan

Sometimes the waste is too large to be collected by well meaning citizens, and this is where Japan will fall down. There doesn’t appear to be the energy to locate and dispose of large items of rubbish. Instead they’re left on street corners to slowly be overtaken by nature. Or dumped under flyovers.

For the most part these are away from the tourist spots and busy thoroughfares. They’re in places where people won’t notice, like under a flyover or tucked behind an old building. I once found a washing machine half way up a mountain and I still have no idea how someone managed to get it up a barely navigable path.

Perhaps this is symptomatic of Japan’s focus on detail, often at the expense of the bigger picture. A pat on the back for recycling 95% of its PET bottles, just don’t mention the broken bicycles and entire cars left to rot.

It’s an attitude that needs to change.

I'm Ross, a digital editorial designer and content creator from the UK now living in Japan. I help growing companies plan, source, produce and promote a range of content. Find out more

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