Friday, September 10, 2010

Chapter Three: Gomi Day (Garbage Day) and Risto's Meltdown (Nearly Nuclear)

Gomi. A simple four letter word that arouses terror in all who live in Tokyo, both native and gaijin (non-japanese foreigners living here). This is simply the japanese word for garbage. Ah, but all things japanese have so many layers to them. Tokyo being one of the most densely populated places on the planet needs tight rules on recycling and garbage disposal, and the japanese love their rules. these garbage rules are about as simple to understand as a tokyo subway map (an upcoming blog).  The instant we moved into our new home, this was the first sheet of paper the landlady gave to us with many admonishments about how important it was to obey their gomi rules, and stick this up on the refrigerator.  Here is her helpful guide to me:

So, this lists all the possible types of gomi, how they are grouped together, what kinds of bags they can go in. there is "namagomi" which is food scraps (i.e. banana peels), plastics that are recyclable, other recyclables like newspapers are separated and tied in bundles different from cardboard that must be tied in a bundle, and those plastic recyclables must be in a transparent plastic bag, and then there is a crate just for tins and bottles, and these are disposed of on different days so that mondays are recyclable plastics, tuesday and friday are combustible garbage including food bits, and on saturdays, the first and third weeks of the months are metalic things, broken glass, etc, all of which have rules about how to dispose of them, and in the bottom righthand corner, a number to call where you must pay for the privilege to haul away big garbage items like furniture. "sodai gomi", which is slang for a useless husband.

well, here is garbage day with all the garbages lined up and hidden under yellow plastic to make it less of an eyesore. 

and for a close-up...

well, i stress about this daily. having to put it all in the right containers, and we have a bunch of gomibaco (garbage bins), one for each of the different gomi, and i have to wash the plastic sometimes. it is all confusing. now i know why all the expats look for apartments where the superintendent organizes all their garbage.

today, the ultimate shame for me.  i thought that i was being the consummate good husband. i woke up, cut fruit for our breakfast, had coffee going, started the laundary, and brought out the two bags of gomi. i was the perfect japanese okusan (housewife).  so proud of myself. then mari tells me how one of those bags was recyclable plastics, wrong gomi, wrong day.  the horrors!! i had to quickly run outside, rummage through the bags like a homeless person in nyc and get the wrong gomi back, and then i had to walk home, tail between my legs like a bad little doggie, as all these neighbors watched, these passerbys too, all with eyes bearing down on the bad gaijin who still cannot master the gomi rules despite the helpful guides with all those pictures...then when i got home i just had my nuclear meltdown about how the stress of gomi day was putting me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. yell, yell, yell, shout, shout, shout, but seconds later, it passed. lesson: do not under any circumstance attempt to do gomiday without the morning shot of espresso....


  1. Wow- good thing I don't imagine a lot of people from Montana end up living in Tokyo. The japanese would probably react badly to things like dumping old rusted out cars in rivers, etc.

  2. Fascinating! Imagine New Yorkers being told to sort into 7-15 different categories... chaos, dramatic diatribes, etc would result, as you manifested :). I will gratefully look at my kind (garbage-or-recycling) DC garbage system :)

  3. Hello,

    check for all your garbage disposal related stuffs.