Friday, March 16, 2007

The Barter Journey

A man from Hokkaido has just finished his "recycling journey" a few days ago. This 25-year-old man started his trip last April (2006) and walked 3,500 km across Japan from Hokkaido down south to Okinawa pullying a small two-wheeled-cart.

He works for a company that aims to resolve environmental issues, and inspired by a co-worker of his who had crossed the archipelago picking up trash he decided to set off for a similar journey though not completely the same. The principle objective for this trip was to reduce garbage by collecting and bartering unnecessary things from the people he meets on his way. He asks them to give him whatever they kept in the house but did not need, and if there was something in his cart that they wanted he would trade whatever is unneeded with the needed. In this way he bartered all kinds of things including commodities, clothes, bags and more.

He says that on his trip he had seen many issues regarding the environmental pollution and irresponsible disposal of various things. Also, he says that his encounter with so many people, their cultures, societies and problems that each of them carry have broadened his worldview. In the following years he says that he wants to concentrate on environmental activities.

Japan has this kind of custom of families bringing unnecessary things together and trading them amongst each other. I suppose there are similar customs around the world probably in the majority of the cultures so it's not particularly Japanese or anything. Anyway, sometimes these bartering gatherings are for the pure sake of the members, of getting rid of unneeded things. Some other times, like the parents do in schools, the pot-luck bazaar collects money from outsiders (e.g., visitors to the school festivals) so that they can gather fund for their children's school activities.

School bazaars are still very common today, but I don't think that the neighborhood bartering is no longer practiced, at least not in the same way the school bazaars are. Until several decades ago, sharing commodities and kitchenwear as well as food with your neighbors was normal too, but this too is almost like a fossil custom. Either the customs decayed, or the trust relationship in the neighborhood has weakened, or rather, I think, the neighborhood human relationship itself is fading not to mention the sharp decrease of young people residing in the countrysides.

Besides these customs there were many other methods of the reduce reuse and recycle in the daily lives of Japanese people in the old days, but unfortunately the overflow of materials and the busy and wary lifestyles today is diminishing the wisdoms of the past. It's such a pity that the culture of recycle has become a culture of waste.

Having said that though, I can't change the fact that I'm a resident of 21st century Tokyo. Of course I try to reduce waste as well as a bunch of other people are. I hope that even these littlest things that we can do are helping the issues.

Geez my mind is so Friday.
My readers out there, have a nice weekend :-)

Today's update on Japan Mode

- Charmy Rop Chapter 12
- Cherry Blossom Forecast 2007... revised because the Met Agency made some miscalculations and got the expected dates wrongly for some cities. Also the temperatures are unusually low these days (I feel like it's colder than February which shouldn't be the case if the weather was regular) the blossoming seems to delay a tad bit.

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