Japan is in so many ways a very eco-friendly place. Rice is grown in your own neighborhood, so the carbon footprint is relatively low. Many farmers still even plant by hand! You can wash your hands with the water that flows from the pipes into your toilet when you flush (before it enters the bowl of course). Many people bike to work everyday here. Trash is meticulously separated into burnable, plastic burnable, recyclable plastic bottles, recyclable glass, magazines, newspapers, cardboard, etc.
But the one thing that Japan really could improve on is plastic use. True, most large stores now don't hand out plastic bags for free and encourage the use of your own grocery bag, but convenience stores do. Not only do they give out a plastic bag with everything, but all the food comes in layers and layers of plastic.
I'm not trying to complain about it, but rather present a solution. For all my friends in Japan right now, consider carrying your own chopsticks (hashi) with you to avoid getting both plastic AND wood every time you eat out and think if you really need to take that plastic bag. If you're really into saving the environment and happen to be a big oden fan too, bring your own plastic container to the convini. The girls at my local convini think it's really cute that I bring my own, and I feel good about getting a warm vegetarian meal for only $3.50 with no plastic at all!!
Oden in Fukuoka at a famous night ramen stand by the river accompanied by grilled scallops.
Clockwise from top: Tofu pouch stuffed with meat (that I gave away), a half-eaten daikon, atsuage tofu, and a heaping of wasabi mustard.
And yes, it's hot enough to make a grown man cry.