We recently returned from a mammoth 6-week holiday.
We knocked off family reunions and reconnecting in the Netherlands and the UK, and added Singapore and Japan to the mix on either end for ‘fun’.
As this is a blog about sustainable fashion, I won’t go into too much detail about the actual travel. Suffice to say it was exhausting, exhilarating, eye-opening, entertaining and epic. Our son turned two on the trip and with it came challenging new defiant behaviours. Thankfully, he loved the trains, planes, lift buttons and city lights as we went.
When it comes to sustainability, I found I really had to leave my values at the departure gate. Living out of a suitcase for a month and a half with a two year old and a teenager really knocks the wind out of any eco sails. The priority is feeding, getting places, and often working on the spur of the moment. I decided taking my Keep Cup and Reusable nappies was just asking for too much!!! Although I took my tupperware, beeswax wraps, reusable bags and soap bars there was a lot of convenience single use plastic and take-away paraphernalia being bought.
So yes, I was not very eco while I travelled. And it struck me just how un-eco the world really is on an every day basis. Singapore and Tokyo really shocked us. WOW!!! Single use plastic everywhere. I understand that these places cater toward convenience, small kitchens that are barely used, and life (especially in Singapore) dining and socialising on the street. But fruit cut into pieces and individually wrapped!! Dine-in margarine iwth it’s own attached plastic knife! Really!?
In Tokyo, all the cafes sold dine-in coffee in disposable cups. I wondered, was there simply no space to keep ceramic mugs for all the millions of people that visited that cafe? While Japanese are hot on recycling with separated out rubbish bins everywhere, I have to wonder about the priority. Surely, the best way to keep on top of rubbish is to minimise it, not recycle what is thrown away. What about bringing your own bag? I didn’t see a single reusable shopping bag in Japan.
We found it a little terrifying that the government of a country like Japan, with its 127 million people, doesn’t promote reducing as much as recycling. No wonder the oceans are littered with islands of plastic.
But, I suppose, that all of that requires a huge cultural change for millions of people. People work so much and so hard that office towers with 40+ levels contain supermarkets, dentists, gyms and restaurants so workers need not venture far during work hours (which seem to be 9am to 7 or 8pm). It’s all about convenience and eating on the go.
On a positive note, I just love Tokyo fashion. Tokyoites dress so well in a style that I admire – unpretentious, well-tailored, classic and Parisian-inspired with beautiful fabrics with subtle pops of colour. I was blown away by the uniformity of that style, and general exceptional presentation by the millions of commuters we encountered. I’m not saying body size and shape diversity and personal taste aren’t important and to be celebrated, but seeing thousands of well-presented, perfectly made-up people is pleasing too in an aesthetic way. Here are a few examples (I got more confident to ask people to pose just as we left!). Seeing traditional dress was also cool. The gentleman with jandals was listening to music through his iphone – I just loved the effortless mix of old and new.
3 thoughts on “Inspired and scared by Japan”
Several years ago there was a push on for people to bring their own chopsticks….and it had been rather successful. I wonder what happened?
That’s interesting, but yes it sounds like it didn’t work. To be honest, I expected to get reusable sticks in restaurants, but we only got it twice, from memory. I can’t say I saw many people carrying their own. If only 50% would, it would make such a difference. The packets with hand wipes were frustrating too.
Thanks for commenting 🙂
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Such an interesting observation. I love how we are colored by our own life choices. I lived in Japan years ago and never really thought about this. I was always impressed with how clean everything seemed. I’m sure if I were to visit now, all this craziness would jump out at me. I do, however, remember them wrapping a lot of stuff in plastic unnecessarily.