The wrapping culture

Living in Japan is a study in contrasts. Signs everywhere to conserve energy, but I would dare suggest more clothes irons and electrically heated toilet seats per capita than any other country. A thick booklet from the town council on how to separate garbage for collection, but by the time it gets picked up the separations have turned to “burnable” or “non burnable.”

To someone who has spent years trying to minimize my impact where possible, I have focused on the practical rathar than the perceived. Here, however, the perception is as important, if not more so, than the practical. Workers wear suits to work, even if they then change into overalls, as the suit conveys a perception. Secretaries scurry at nearly a run down hallways, not because what they have is time critical, but because it carries a perception of diligence. The pastry you buy to-go at a train station bakery will be put in a fancy plastic carrying bag even if you are planning on eating it 30 seconds later, and the manager apologizes in response to your request to not have the bag, but to see someone leave the store without a bag would hurt the perception of the store to people walking past. It takes quite a bit of getting used to….

Particularly when there are 3 layers of plastic between my takeout lunch and me….

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