I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Waribashi (part 2 or 3)

It's been a few months, and that means I need to loosen my atrophying vocal chords and get back to hollering about waribashi (disposable chopsticks, the devils). As I've foamed before, they are a key component to Japan's senseless and ignorant destruction of the world's (mainly China's) forests, and there really is no reason for thing to have continued as far as they have. Given the technological capacities of thus country, there is no reason for Japan to continue using 26,0oo,ooo,ooo billion pairs of waribashi every year.

So I've gotten past the point of wishful thinking and strident echoes against my own righteous sounding wall that is this blog, and I decided recently to take action that would have a larger impact on my community, my world, because if we cut down any more trees without respecting the boon they provide for all living creatures, there is going to be no more oxygen to exercise my angry lungs.

My solution is to go to the power. I wrote a letter to the governor of Shiga Prefecture, Mrs. Yukiko Kada, explaining why I think that ending the use of waribashi in Shiga is important for the environment, and suggesting ways in which we could reduce or recycle waribashi. I have already received an email from Mrs. Kada saying that she supports the idea and has passed along my ideas to the environmental department to think of new ideas/policies regarding waribashi.

I'm including my letter to The Governor below.

In addition to this, I am also attaching a photo and description of a recent piece I did for the Shiga JET Art Show. As expected, the theme was waribashi. As you will read, the waribashi I used to build a model of Japan's most famous famous Ise Temple were all waribashi that had been sneaked into my shopping bags when I wasn't looking. (The horrible dual-edge of waribashi is that once they are distributed, they cannot be returned because they are assumed to be dirty and therefore used.)

First the letter, in Japanese and English, then my artist interpretation:




しかしながら、滋賀県をもっと地球にやさしくさせるために、 私の考えをお伝えし、いくつかの提案をしたいと思います。

ご存知のように、日本全国で割り箸の使用が環境に非常に悪い影響を与えます。1日にほぼ1億膳の割り箸が使い捨てられています。 東京大学の環境活動団体「環境三四郎」(http://www.sanshiro.ne.jp/)の全国調査 によると、「2005年現在、日本国内で年間約260億膳の割り箸が消費されている」ということです。 日本らしい表現で言うと、これは「もったいない」ではないのでしょうか。

私は来日してから 毎日お箸で食べなければいなくなったのですが「マイ箸(毎箸)」を使うことにしいます。周りの友達や同僚に「マイ箸」をあげたり、英語の授業で生徒と「割り箸の問題」についてディスカッションをしてもらったりしています。相対的にこの活躍は小さいですが、地球温暖化を抑えるためこの「割り箸はもったいなくて、いりません」というメッセージをみんなと申し上げたいと思っています。


1) 滋賀県が「割り箸禁止」という規制を作るのがひとつの方法です。そうすれば、飲食店では再使用お箸に変えるしかなく、そして、コンビニアンスストアでも、割り箸を配ることも禁止になります。一面ではこの提案は最も厳しいかもしれませんが、他の方法よりも効果的だと存じます。一方で、最近地方分権化が進んでいますので、条例を定める方法もあります。
2) 割り箸税金という方法もあります。現在は、県民がコンビニアンスストア、飲食店、スーパーなどでは無料で簡単に割り箸をも 貰うことができます。でも、もちろん割り箸の環境に悪い影響は値段に含まれていないでしょう。もし地球のための「割り箸税金」を導入すれば、幅広い効果があると存じます。2〜3円でも、その「割り箸税金」が集まったお金を原資に、例えば滋賀県内で特別な割り箸をリサイクルのシステムを設置できる可能性があります。または、これで滋賀県民がもっと環境のためを思うようになって、割り箸を使う人が自然に減るかもしれません。




Dear Governor Kada,

(I am aware that you speak English as well as Japanese, and so I have provided this version of my letter in English as well. I hope that where my Japanese is lacking, my wishes and thoughts will be understood here in English.)

My name is Salem Willard, and I am currently working at Kusatsu High School as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) for the JET Program. My home is in Atlanta, Georgia of the United States of America. I graduated from the University of Georgia in May of 2006, and I came to Japan in July of that year.

Since coming to Shiga I have been very surprised and impressed with the way Japanese people think about the environment. For example, many people bring their own ‘Eco-bags’ to the grocery store instead of using plastic ones. In Shiga people also recycle many things, and even at Prefecture High Schools toilet paper is made from recycled milk cartons. I think that these are wonderful ways of taking action to protect the environment.

However, I believe that there is more we can do in Shiga to be more Earth friendly.

As you probably well know, in Japan waribashi are a big problem that has seriously harmful effects on the environment. In one day about one hundred million pairs of waribashi are used and disposed. According to research done by Kankyou Sanshiro, about 260 pairs of waribashi are used every day in Japan. To use a customary Japanese phrase, isn’t this a bit wasteful?

Since coming to Japan where I must use chopsticks everyday, I have decided to use Mybashi. I have given Mybashi to many people around me, and in English classes I have had the students discuss the waribashi problem. Although these actions are relatively small, I would like the share this message about waribashi with everyone.

In order to make Shiga cleaner and remove waribashi, for the time being, I have two proposals.

1) One way is for the Shiga government (Kencho) to pass a regulation or law. This regulation would make restaurants change to reusable chopsticks, and it would also forbid convenience stores from giving away free waribashi. On the one hand this proposal is quite strict, but I believe it could be very effective. Due to the continuing decentralization movements by local governments, however, making a general Shiga policy that the cities could pursue themselves is also an option.

2) Another way is by introducing a “Waribashi Tax”. Shiga citizens can easily get free waribashi from convenience stores, supermarkets, and restaurants, yet the cost of the negative environmental effect this has is not included. If we add a “Waribashi Tax” for the sake of our planet, I think we could make a big impact. Even just a few yen per pair of chopsticks could possibly fund a special Shiga-wide waribashi recycling system. Or even better, it could get people to think more about the environment and reduce their use of waribashi.
--In 2007, part of Nagoya began a similar “plastic bag charge” that has had dramatic effects. Stores that have introduced a 5 yen charge for plastic bags have seen up to 90% of their customers refuse plastic bags in recent months, resulting in 30 tons of reduced waste from plastic bags in the past two months.

Here is the URL to the article about Nagoya’s steps to reducing plastic bag waste:

I’m sorry for taking so much of your time when I know you are extremely busy. I hope that together we can make Shiga Prefecture and Lake Biwa a more beautiful place by thinking about our home and its future.


Salem Willard

Now for the aesthetic side (or lack thereof) to environmental statements:

Katie Middendorf ケイティ・ミデンドーフ
Inspirer, Conspirer of otherworldly impressions

Salem Willard セイラム・ウィラード
Construction worker, Interpreter  (建築家、翻訳)

National Treasure 国宝

Building Materials: 建設材料

Waribashi, tape 割り箸、テープ

*all waribashi used were unsolicited like hidden daggers or unwanted impositions slipped into shopping bags, Osho take-out, when we failed to keep a vigil eye

We made this temple with the idea in mind that something positive can come from trash. In addition, our wastefulness has a cost that threatens our natural forests, a vital source of life, a living treasure. The temple was modeled after the Ise Jingu (Shrine), which Katie and I visited last November. Ise Jingu is the home of the Japanese Imperial Family’s deity, the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu—Ooikami. It is a sacred place symbolizing a connection with and respect for nature that people forget in their use of waribashi. We believe we must protect our treasures symbolic and living in creating a hopeful and healthy future.



Post a Comment

<< Home