Revival of Japan’s Wild Game Cuisine (Qing Ning & Wei Lin)

This article makes a distinction between a more familiar urban Japan and a “deep Japan” in the mountains. It proceeds to give a history of hunting game from pre-Tokugawa times to postwar Japan, though it only refers to “ancient Japan” very vaguely. Furthermore, it portrays wildlife as not being hunted since the “early years”, due to Buddhist beliefs. The article then seems to encourage the hunting of game by framing it as a solution to control wild animal populations causing damage to human areas, a way to inspire Japanese-French culinary culture, as well as the path towards “coexistence with nature”. This allows the article to represent recent trends of game hunting as a significant “return” to nature that will allow humans in general to start “rethinking the relationship between people and nature”. While the article concludes that hunting game exemplifies Japan as wholly ‘green’, the restaurants referenced at the end of the article with their addresses and websites attached make the article seem slightly disingenuous about its message. This reveals that rather than a respect for nature, the actors in question are still controlling it for their own anthropocentric means. Furthermore, the article carelessly lumps the whole of Japan into the hunting trend when there is in fact only a particular group of people who are dealing with game meat. This also obscures the difference between groups of Japanese people by giving the impression that all Japanese in the Tokugawa era were Buddhists that did not hunt game at all.

Hunting game can be considered green as it allows local municipalities in Japan to control the alleged overpopulation of wild animals to prevent damage to the human areas. The way in which hunting can be rationalised as a ‘green’ activity parallels Kirby’s (2011) analysis of how whale ‘overpopulation’ was “sustainably” maintained via culling in order to prevent the alleged fish scarcity (p.167). However, the culling of whales was legitimised via selective use of scientific data and the convenient use of ambiguous terms like “sustainable” to suit the whalers’ objectives (p.167). It appears difficult to justify hunting as a way to control animal populations when there is no given proof that said deers and boars are even overpopulating.

While game animals such a deers are reigned as “special national treasures” (Lecture video 8), it is ironic that these said “treasures” are perceived as pests that disrupt human lives especially in rural areas. Whereas in urban areas, deers are more likely to be seen as celebrities in places like Nara Park. This difference in perception is highlighted in Knight (2006), where media and entertainment parks influence the perception of animals of especially urban dwellers (p.118-119). Also, the fact that the Nara park is designated as a “priority protection zone” where deers are not allowed to be culled as compared to rural areas, highlights that most Japanese may prefer to observe nature in more controlled and sheltered parks, instead of nature in its most uncontrolled form in the rural mountains (Nara Prefecture Guide; Kalland & Asquith, 1997, p.15).

In essence, this article reiterates the concerns of political ecology, particularly in how political, economical and social forces influence the environmental decision to cull game animals. These take the form of local policies, monetary loss due to animal destruction and the impact on neighbourhoods (Robbins, 2003, p.6-7). Wild animals in particular are the locus of these forces, caught in the political, social and cultural whims of human activity. As Waley (2000)’s article has mentioned, the preservation of nature tends to be seen through human needs only (p.213). As such, while the article laments about “natural balance” and “return to nature”, it remains a question as to whether the culling of game animals would ultimately benefit the environment.

(628 Words)

Asquith, P. J., & Kalland, A. (2004). Ideals and Illusions. In Japanese images of nature: cultural perspectives (pp. 15–15). essay, RoutledgeCurzon.
Kirby, P. W. (2011). Constructing Sustainable Japan. In Troubled natures: waste, environment, Japan (pp. 164–170). essay, University of Hawaiʻi Press.
Knight, J. (2006). Monkeys. In Waiting for wolves in Japan: an anthropological study of people-wildlife relations (pp. 118–119). essay, University of Hawai’i Press.
Robbins, P. (2007). The Hatchet and the Seed. In Political ecology: a critical introduction (pp. 6–7). essay, Wiley-Blackwell.
Uehara, Y. (2020, May 30). Revival of Japan’s Wild Game Cuisine.
Waley, P. (2000). Following the flow of Japan’s river culture. Japan Forum, 12(2), 204.
Nara Prefecture Guide (奈良のシカ保護管理計画検討委員会). 「奈良のシカ保護管理計画」の策定について .

Throwaway society: Rejecting a life consumed by plastic (D’Alene & Jared)

The article describes Japan as the second-largest contributor of plastic waste in the world, 40% of which is single-use plastic. Disposable plastic is so ubiquitous in all kinds of products, it is difficult to go ‘plastic-less’. Japanese institutions have made efforts to reduce plastic waste. In addition, McKirdy features various Japanese individuals who strive to reduce plastic waste, such as Mona Neuhauss, who sells reusable metal straws to reduce the use of plastic straws and believes the action of using less plastic has a knock-on effect on others. The article is optimistic that Japan can reduce their plastic use because of their waste-averse mindset.

McKirdy illustrates that capitalist human activities in Japan have significant influences on the environment. Approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into oceans worldwide annually. These microplastics pollute food chains such that the average person ingests the amount of plastic equivalent to a credit card weekly, which is an area of increasing concern to human health (Royte, n.d.). Plastic waste harms every creature in the ecosystem through ingestion, trapping animals and breeding pathogens (Reddy, 2018). This parallels the similar devastation to marine life posed by the Chisso corporations’ dumping of methylmercury in Minamata’s waters (Walker, 2010). Both examples are representations of the adverse impacts Japan’s rapid industrialisation have on the environment. Much like Chisso’s factories, plastic production is the result and symbol of tapping on industrial prowess to fulfill the modern need for convenience at the expense of Japan’s environmental health.

McKirby explains that human actions on the environment will ultimately affect humans too, as we ingest discarded plastic through consuming animals who have accumulated them. Paralleling this, Walker (2010) discusses the crippling effects bioaccumulation of mercury had on the health of Minamata townsfolk. It is impossible to segregate human activity from the environment, in spite of our technological prowess (Walker, 2010), and our actions on the environment will result in a backlash on our own health.

McKirdy points out two key issues with Japan’s waste problem: the first is the indiscriminate use of plastic packaging in most aspects of consumption. This part of the problem cannot only be tackled by those in positions of power. As Odachi believes, “a fundamental shift in mindset is needed among politicians and business leaders.” However, the issue lies in the constant obstinacy of powerful actors in changing, as reflected in Kirby (2011), wherein “sustainable development” is often carried with the “characteristic Japanese emphasis on the development half of the phrase.” This notion is best seen in the article by how businesses “only look for the answer [to sustainable practices] from within their existing business model. But the most important thing is not to produce so much disposable plastic in the first place.” In other words – there is merely a patronising performance of sustainability from influential stakeholders, but no real commitment to it.

The second part of the problem concerns the actual usage of plastics by consumers – an area where active efforts by individuals can make a difference. The “green” aspect of this article is embodied in highlighting individual ground-up efforts in tackling an issue widely perceived to be an institutional onus. McKirdy’s article emphasises the influence of ground-up action over the environment. The existence of individuals such as Seguchi and Neuhauss, who devote a large part of their lives to promoting sustainable personal habits in Japan, is testament to the promise of a revolution in Japan’s consumption practices. The foregrounding of civil society as a prominent stakeholder in Japan’s environmental efforts is echoed in Waley’s (2000) analysis of Japan’s Multi-nature-style river planning initiative. Though focused on government policy, Waley nonetheless highlights the importance of public buy-in in the determination of an initiative’s success. In McKirdy’s article, there is a cautious optimism of the power of the people. Should there be sufficient will from the Japanese public to radically change their consumption habits, and “people […] express their opinions” by taking action, it could act as effective ways of signalling that demands of the public are changing, and it would be remiss for any institution to ignore that.

Word count: 682

Article link:


Kirby, P. (2011). Constructing Sustainable Japan. In Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan (pp. 160-192). University of Hawai’i Press. Retrieved July 19, 2020, from

McKirdy, A. (2020, January 10). Throwaway society: Rejecting a life consumed by plastic. The Japan Times.

Reddy, S. (2018, September 24). Plastic Pollution Affects Sea Life Throughout the Ocean. PEW.

Royte, E. (n.d.). We Know Plastic Is Harming Marine Life. What About Us? National Geographic. Retrieved July 19, 2020, from

Waley, P. (2000). Following the flow of Japan’s river culture. Japan Forum, 12(2), 199–217.

Walker, B. (2010). Introduction: Knowing Nature. Toxic archipelago: a history of industrial disease in Japan . University of Washington Press. (pp. 3-21).

Walker, B. (2010). Mercury’s Offspring. Toxic archipelago: a history of industrial disease in Japan . University of Washington Press. (pp. 137-175).

The Climate Crisis: Emergency on Japan’s ‘lucky island’ (Jialing and Nicole)

In this article by The Japan Times, Chase-Lubitz and Boyd (2020) describe the circumstances of Iki Island, located in Nagasaki Prefecture, being the first place in Japan to declare a climate emergency and lay out plans to combat the impending consequences of accelerated climate change. Despite being less affected by natural disasters than other nearby regions, the community’s agricultural and fishing industries currently witness dire effects on yield and income stemming from climate change, hence prompting the local government to take action.

The article presents Japan as a country that is highly vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change and rural depopulation. On a local scale, this is reflected by Iki Island’s encounters with heavy torrential rains, resulting in landslides and crop loss, and rising sea temperatures, leading to the decline in local seaweed beds and fish population. Such circumstances decrease the yield and income of farmers and fishermen. Coupled with the fact that residences on the island are concentrated around its coasts, prone to sea level rise, these may be some of the key push factors which encourage locals to seek employment in other more urban parts of Japan. The above hints at the uneven geographical distribution of climate change impacts, where coastal communities are much more vulnerable to these threats as compared to urban metropolises located further inland. Even among Iki Island’s residents, those whose livelihoods are heavily dependent on weather and sea conditions tend to be more informed of the effects of climate change, as opposed to inland business owners who may be blissfully unaware. This illustrates how attitudes towards environmental issues also vary across demographics and social groups.

Iki Island is perceived as “green” for its determination to address climate change by raising awareness among its inhabitants, and supporting them in reaching sustainability goals by planning to increase the island’s reliance on renewable energy sources and incorporate artificial intelligence to optimise the efficiency of its agricultural sector. These have also inspired the city of Kamakura and Nagano Prefecture to take similar actions. However, the article emphasises that these declarations must be supported by commitment from both the authorities and the people in order to generate a lasting impact of environmental sustainability. This aligns with Kirby (2011)’s assertion on how ideas like sustainability can be easily manipulated for various agendas and understood differently by distinct stakeholders. There remains a possibility that local governments may use climate emergency declarations as a “greenwashing” technique and fail to follow up on their promises, hence putting coastal communities like Iki Island in a more difficult situation due to the power disparity between authorities and the people.

Despite the increasing attention paid to environmental issues, economic growth and development still seem to take priority on Iki Island. The city plans on expanding its cattle farming and aviation sectors, which both contribute to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, as these are essential in boosting the island’s economic development. This corresponds with Kirby (2011)’s observations that sustainable development in Japan seems to be heavily focused on the aspect of development, rather than the environment. Expanding on Robbins (2019)’s concept of political ecology, we see how various political, economic and social factors influence environmental decisions. Iki Island’s sustainability strategies are carefully selected to ensure that they can fulfill their “green” aspirations without having to over-compromise on economic growth, which is crucial for its coastal community to continue sustaining itself and avoid the fate of depopulation as seen in other rural parts of Japan. 

Overall, Iki Island’s strategies to become a “green” example for the rest of Japan are a result of, and restrained by political ecology.

(Word count: 598)


Chase-Lubitz, Jesse, and Oscar Boyd. 2020. “The Climate Crisis: Emergency On ‘Lucky Island’”. The Japan Times. Accessed 13 July, 2020.

Kirby, Peter Wynn. 2011. Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan. Honolulu, HI, USA: University of Hawai’i Press.

Robbins, Paul. 2019. Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction. 3rd ed. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

‘Mottainai Grandma’ spreads her environmental message in new cartoon series (Li An & Jianxing)

In 2004, Mariko Shinju, a local ‘author and illustrator’, wrote a book about a grandma who teaches children how to practice mottainai, a catch-all term for reducing and managing waste through mindful consumption. (Marino, 2020; McMorran, 2020) To embrace mottainai in daily life is to embrace the 4Rs – ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,’ and ‘Respect.’ (Marino, 2020) “Mottainai Grandma” later went on to become a phenomenal success, attracting young readers internationally. (Marino, 2020) It has even been adapted into an animated series, brandishing catchy songs to inculcate sustainable practices into the minds of the next generation. (Marino, 2020)

Marino’s (2020) article highlights the importance of mottainai in educating kids about the environmental impact of waste. Through the work of Shinju, we see involvement by state institutions to promote sustainability, such as Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, and private institutions like Kodansha – a publishing company in Japan. (Marino, 2020) Nonetheless, mottainai is lauded as an unique philosophy that places one’s everyday activities at the forefront of waste reduction. (Marino, 2020) Mottainai also ties in with cultural and social beliefs of the Japanese that nature and culture are not polarities, as they may co-exist in a sphere. (Kalland & Asquith, 1997, p. 12) Hence, the concept of displaying respect, which is part of Japanese culture, for every life on earth. (Marino, 2020) 

Marino (2020) highlighted how the cultivation of societal attitudes, such as consideration for the craftsmen who had designed our items, is imperative for making environmental changes. “Mottainai Grandma” encouraged children to finish all the food on their plates, and re-use old goods to reverse climate change. (Marino, 2020) 

Shinju also compared the grandmother to Buddha, adding that this feature makes her wise as her eyes ‘are half-open’, but they possess discernable insight into the actions that people perform. (Marino, 2020) This may be tied to Siniawier’s (2018) reading, in which minimalism is linked to Buddhist thinking on the transient nature of things. (p. 274) The purposeful comparison of “Mottainai Grandma” to Buddha may allude to Buddhist teachings that acquiring material goods leads to dissatisfaction, and that the removal of it leads to the erasal of negative qualities like avarice. (Siniawier, 2018, p.275&276) 

The concept of Japan being environmentally friendly has been etched into popular beliefs. (Silverberg & Smith, 2019) This myth has been propagated through efforts like these, as “Mottainai Grandma” has been translated into many languages and circulated internationally, and the concept has grown into a movement worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. (Marino, 2020; Silverberg & Smith, 2019; McMorran, 2020; Nobel Media, 2004; Miller, 2009) This could be an attempt by the environmental ministry to shape international perceptions of Japan’s green efforts and rebrand Japan’s image. Nonetheless, Kirby (2011) calls into question Japan’s approach towards promoting sustainability, as Japan recycles because of pragmatism and to help businesses save cost. (p. 182) Note, however, that sustainability should not be conflated with commitment towards climate change, for Japan continues to support environmentally damaging activities such as whaling to protect its industries. (Kirby, 2011, p. 165; Totman, 2018) We also know that when it comes to attributing responsibility towards sustainability and waste in Japan, it is the general public, and in this case, the newer generations that is re-educated and responsible for waste reduction, not the manufacturers or the businesses. (Kirby, 2011, p. 183; McMorran, 2020) Of course, it is not solely due to cultural attitudes that Japanese people recycle, but existing regulations regarding household waste disposal, as people classify their trash for collection in Japan. (McMorran, 2020; McMorran, 2020; McMorran, 2020) Historically, laws drove the Japanese to manage nature sustainably as the loss of forest grounds led to the loss of livelihoods. (McMorran, 2020; Totman, 1993, p. 269)

In conclusion, it is undetermined whether the promotion of “Mottainai Grandma signals Japan’s commitment to climate change; so long as Japan’s narrative of economic advancement eclipses environmental concerns, it would continue to repudiate environmentally-friendly actions if it affects its GDP. (Kirby, 2011, p.183) The state would promote sustainability through the path of the least resistance, through citizenry re-education rather than policy and regulation for businesses. (Kirby, 2011, p.183) 


Words: 687 (incl. in-text citations of 87 words) 


ボンボンアカデミー [username] (2020). “Mottainai Grandma Goes to the River. (Anime/Official) – English.” youtube. Retrieved from

Kalland, A. and P. J. Asquith (1997). “Japanese perceptions of nature: ideals and illusions.” Japanese Images of Nature. Eds. P. J. Asquith and A. Kalland. Richmond, UK: Curzon, pp. 1-35.

Kirby, P. W. (2011). “Constructing sustainable Japan.” Troubled natures: waste, environment, Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Kodansha picture book channe. [username] (2020). “Mottainai Grandma Goes to the River [Official Anime]” Youtube. Retrieved from

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Marino. J. (2020). “‘Mottainai Grandma’ spreads her environmental message in new cartoon series.” The Japan Times. Retrieved from

McMorran. C. (2020). “Defining waste.” [powerpoint slides] Luminus Lecture. Singapore: National University of Singapore, Panopto.

McMorran C. (2020). “Minamata Recycling Tour.”  [powerpoint slides] Luminus Lecture. Singapore: National University of Singapore, Panopto.

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Miller, K. (2009). “Mottainai Campaign enjoying new relevance.” Japan Today. Retrieved from

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Silverberg E. & Smith E. (2019) “Does Japan have a global environmental strategy?” The Diplomat. Retrieved from

Siniawer, E. W. (2018). “Sorting things out.” Waste: consuming postwar Japan. Ithaca, Cornell University Press.

Totman. C. (1993). “Ecological Trends — periods of stasis. (II)” Early Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Totman C. (2018). “Japan’s Forests: Good Days and Bad — Rhythms of Damage and Recovery” About Japan: A Teacher’s Resource. Retrieved from–rhythms_of_damage_and_recovery_-

Tokyo based startups look to link consumers with restaurants to curb food waste(serena and yen)

Sustainability has become the world’s catchphrase to protecting the environment and the economy at the same time. Food waste negates this mantle of sustainability where “6.46 million tons of untouched food were discarded in 2015” Japan. In the case of Japan’s solution to the food waste issue, one micro aspect comes in the form of an app called Reduce Go.

The app is associated with sustainability in three ways. The first and most discernible will be greenhouse gas release, of which a quarter is attributed to food production (Ritchie, 2019). Second, the app supplements existing sustainability efforts. Currently, there are facilities processing food waste into pig feed in Japan, but with an overwhelming amount of input yet limited requirement for output, these facilities are capable of utilizing only about 20% of food waste (Kuchikomi, 2018). With the introduction of this app, the remnant which ends up in incineration plants can be reduced through consumer habits. Lastly, the app has potential in changing the ideology which Japanese have on food freshness. It is a tacit amongst Japanese shops that food products can no longer be shelved once two-third of their shelf life passes, and these items turn into food waste despite being edible (The Japan Times, 2013). Compared to efforts by major markets and convenient stores in pushing this “discard line” closer to expiry date, the approach adopted by this app: providing lower price and good social cause; seems to put consumers at a gain instead of a loss. The explosive growth in the number of app users proved the app’s success and it’s potential on changing the perception of what Japanese categorized as “food waste”.

The introduction of the app joins a line of other social businesses seeking to tackle food waste problems and bridges the gap between Japan and its environment through monetary benefits. It represents Japan as opportunistic and perceives the environment as a business partner as people utilize startup solutions to encourage the rest of the nation to “go green”.

Robbins’s (2003) assertion on how environmental and social changes are political is illustrated by the power relations between the UN, Japanese government and the local party. “Gaiatsu” discussed by Kirby (2011) have a role in the growing rise of startups such as ReduceGo where food waste found prominence alongside calls for sustainability. The United Nations’ call for halving per capita food waste by 2030 influenced the Japanese government to organise more campaigns aimed at raising awareness (Horiuchi, 2019). The result led to an awkward push and pull between the consumer’s inability to “ realize that the sell-by date (shohi kigen) is not the same as the consumption-expiration date (shohi kigen)”(The Japan Times, 2013) and the “guilt” (Murakami, 2013) to reduce food waste.

On this note, the “guilt” of the Japanese people on food waste resonates with the respectful relationship that people have with nature as presented in the article by Kalland & Asquith (1997) and allows ReduceGo to tap into the duality mindset that people have.

The rise of eco-conscious companies in Japan’s landscape seeking to “create a system where we can cater to other motivations” illustrates the profit of sustainability mentioned by Kirby (2011) but also enhances the need for profits in such businesses in order to continue to harp on environmental protections at a local level.

At a subconscious level, the article embodies the rural-urban divide (Kalland & Asquith, 1997) in the perceptions of nature whereby apps such as ReduceGo and websites such as Tabete are designed only for large cities such as Tokyo where food waste is rampant and where some Japanese only go to restaurants to “exchange business cards without touching the food” (Murakami, 2013). The social design of such apps might not find solid footing in rural areas where there is a lack of restaurants, business and takeout food.

However, the idea of working sustainability that Kirby (2011) argues for is echoed in the final words of the article “To create more than we need has become the norm. … We need to ask the question: do we really need to produce this much?” Thus, Japan’s food waste solution is the continuous process between its culture for freshness, consumers, industry and state.

Word Count: 662


Asquith, P. J., & Kalland, A. (1997). Japanese Perceptions of Nature Ideals and Illusions.
Japanese images of nature: Cultural perspectives ;. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon.
Kalland & Asquith, 1997

Horiuchi, J. (2019, May 18). Japan firms getting serious about food waste, households lag
behind. Retrived from

Kirby, P. W. (2011) Constructing sustainable Japan. Troubled natures : waste, environment,
Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press

Kuchikomi. (2018, Mar 16). Japan throws out 620,000 tons of food a year, while 3 mil kids don’t
have enough to eat. Retrieved from’t-have-enough-to-eat

Murakami, S. (2013, May 4). Tokyo-based startups look to link consumers with restaurants to
curb food waste. Retrieved from

Ritchie, H. (2019, Nov 6). Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s
greenhouse gas emissions. Retrieved from

Robbins, P. (2003). The Hatchet and the Seed. Political ecology: A critical introduction. Oxford:

The Japan Times. (2013, Aug 27). Reducing food loss. Retrieved from

Kirby, P. W. (2011) Constructing sustainable Japan. Troubled natures : waste, environment,
Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press

Tokyo Olympics to go green, help other cities strike gold

This article elaborates more on the example raised by Professor McMorran in class regarding Japan’s efforts in moving towards a green Olympics. The article highlights the efforts put in by the Japanese government in the upcoming Olympics. The article suggest that the efforts put into making this Olympics sustainable can be transferred to other cities and enable them to combat the harmful impacts of climate change thus enabling them to ‘strike gold’. Japan is also portrayed as a leader and a pioneer in leading the efforts towards creating a sustainable Olympics as seen from how the innovation here could ideally be transferred to other cities to become the main tool in combating the impacts of climate change.


Green efforts by the Japanese government are summarized in the table below.

Olympic Torch 30% of the metal used is recycled aluminum salvaged from houses destroyed in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake
Medals Sourced from public donation of old mobile phones and small electronic appliances
Companies have set up donation stations to facilitate this process
Podiums Will be made from recycle plastic that is sourced from ocean waste and from public donation
Uniforms Made from recycled plastics
Venues Maximize use of existing buildings
Ensure that new buildings will benefit the local communities
Wood used in new construction are sourced from sustainable sources of timber
After the Olympics, wood will also be reused into public benched and as building materials
Electricity Attained from renewable sources
Specific cool zones to be built to reduce the need for electric based cooling facilities
Special roads that either reflect heat or absorb water have been built to reduce ambient temperatures


There are some improvements in this Olympics when compared to the Olympics of the past. The use of renewable sources of energy for the Olympics for one, is a laudable effort by the Japanese government. In addition, the reusing of pre-existing venues as well as the foresight put into ensuring that new building benefit the local communities for example are important improvements that would improve the overall long term impact of the Olympics.

(For those interested, you can find out and see the state of buildings that were built just for the Olympics and subsequently abandoned here.)

While all the efforts listed above are beneficial and helpful to the environment and the efforts towards sustainability, I am reminded of the lessons we learnt about the use of the term sustainability. If we adopt a more critical lens in considering what kind of efforts are put in and what areas these efforts are targeting, it is obvious that these efforts do not result in a significant change in human behavior. If we consider the use of old electrical appliances and recycled plastics sourced from public donations and ocean waste for example, these are not changing the fundamental human-nature relationship. Instead, these efforts only help to reduce or mitigate the impacts brought about our current lifestyles. Thus, it is difficult to say that we are moving towards a sustainable lifestyle since there is no change in the current consumption patterns. Instead this would be what Kirby would consider to be sustainability used as a guise for development or economic benefits.

This article helps to exemplify how the term sustainability can be misused as Kirby said in order to make development more palatable to the general public. Furthermore, this article helps to serve as a reminder that we should always maintain a critical stance when looking at information presented to us and not be misguided or mislead by the clever use of words and generally accepted terms like sustainability. We should take it a step further and consider the actual impacts as well as the nature of the change brought about by these policies and efforts. In this case, given the lack of fundamental change in consumption patterns, I would argue that these efforts seem more like an attempt at redemption, to mitigate some of the harmful impacts of the current consumption patterns in order to justify and preserve the current consumption patterns that drive development.


Word Count: 652

By: Lee Chun Yuen

Access the full article here.



Chandran, R. (2019, October 22). Tokyo Olympics to go green, help other cities strike gold. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from

Höglind, K. (2020, February 26). Tokyo turning eco: Japan is fully embracing sustainability for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from


MyMizu: Tackling Japan’s sustainability issue one plastic bottle at a time

Japan Times’ coverage of “MyMizu” highlights the intention of the app’s creators to challenge Japan’s definition of ‘sustainability’. MyMizu features a map of places in Japan where water can be obtained for free, either from drinking fountains or food and beverage establishments that have agreed to provide complimentary refills. Refill stations featured on the app would enable and encourage Japanese and other travelers to Japan to refill their own reusable water bottle.


MyMizu was launched with hopes of discouraging the consumption of plastic packaging, especially plastic bottles, which accounts for just a tiny portion of the copious amount of plastic waste produced by Japan. At the time of writing, the planning of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games was making headway and the knowledge that spectators could potentially be consuming more than 110 million plastic bottles in six weeks was alarming to say the least. Yet, the Olympic Games Organising Committee was not keen to work with startups like MyMizu in their efforts towards reducing the environmental impact the Games would have.


Despite Japan’s reputation for “eco-friendliness”, the article points glaringly to the country drowning itself in plastic. Personal practices highlighted show how its society’s inclination towards such seemingly environmentally-friendly practices are done not out of a love for the Earth, but out of necessity. Furthermore, with China having shut its doors to imported plastic waste since 2017, Japan desperately needs an alternative to managing the waste produced.


Overall, the article paints major conglomerates in Japan as being less involved in environmental causes. The commitment that locals show towards demonstrations for such causes also appear to be dismal. Yet, the app has drawn enthusiasm from many users in Japan. Currently-held attitudes and practices towards sustainability still need to be challenged and this app is opening the gateway towards doing just that.


From a political-ecological lens, different scales of power are at work to make this happen. The impact started locally, from MyMizu’s co-founder Robin Lewis who noticed the lack of refill points. However, pressure for change has to be made to the government which has more power over public policies. Pressure from the masses in Japan may currently be lacking but international pressure definitely has the power to move the hand of Japan’s government. Despite the postponement of the Olympics, Japan is still pressed show some effort towards environmentally-friendliness.


Since the term ‘sustainability’ made its way into Japanese politicians’ vernacular in the 1980s, its definition has remained fluid and has been appropriated to achieve different goals. Such goals were often aligned with International pressure that Japan had on many occasions bowed to (Kirby, 2011). Nonetheless, the Japanese branch of global conglomerates have been slow to embrace such measures for the environment. Even Coca-Cola, when interviewed by the Japan Times writers, affirmed the lack of change in their business plan which currently does not support environmentally-friendly practices, despite the strides that their American arm is making in a bid for sustainable development.


Kirby further expounds on the idea that Japan’s sustainable and frugal lifestyle has always existed out of necessity rather than a genuine “love” for nature. Even when examining representations of nature in art, it is evident that the Japanese cherish nature in its idealized state, and their impression of wildlife is something threatening and to be avoided (Kalland & Asquith, 1997). Yet, the fact that they use every part of a whale when caught, rather than wasting large chunks of it as foreigners do, seems to satisfy the personal narrative that the Japanese tell themselves of their noble sustainability efforts. Such contrasting sentiments seem to be the impetus for the development of MyMizu with its bid to alter how the term ‘sustainable’ is held in Japanese minds.


Word count: 617

By: Jovan and Gloria


Chase-Lubitz, J. (2019, October 10). New app MyMizu aims to reduce plastic waste in Japan, one drink at a time. Retrieved July 06, 2020, from

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Kirby, P. (2011). Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan. University of Hawai’i Press. Retrieved July 6, 2020, from

Japan’s plastic problem: Tokyo spearheads push at G20 to tackle waste (Liang Rongjian & Lim Bao Cheng)

As the world’s biggest plastic waste producer per capita, Japan vowed to spearhead the international efforts at reducing plastic wastes at the G20 summit. However, its goals and the “symbolic” measure of banning plastic shopping bags from supermarkets are deemed insufficient by the critics, especially compared to some other nations. Local authorities in Japan and convenience stores have taken more decisive moves. Campaigners said more businesses should be involved and a more thorough approach should be taken to transfer from plastics to recycles and reusables but the change received a hard objection from petroleum industries.  

The article presents Japanese government as a mockery compared to global efforts on reducing plastic waste. Japan was viewed unfavourably especially since the countries who used to take in their plastic waste, now do not wish to be accountable for Japan’s irresponsible usage. Locally, the author cited local authorities and companies taking more decisive actions than the national government. Overall, both globally and locally, the author seems to represent the national government as lacking in their vows to tackle plastic waste. 

Plastic waste causes severe harm to the environment and affects areas such as the local environment near the processing facilities and its incineration contributes to climate change. Hence, the Japanese government’s trying to reduce plastic waste and taking the responsibility of handling its own waste home, though involuntarily, are “green” because such moves will make Japan more environmentally friendly. 

According to the article, most of the plastics waste comes from over-packaging, which can be ascribed to Japanese consumers’ preference for carefully wrapped products. Such cultural preference might be associated with the Japanese perception of nature. Since the product itself can be regarded as “nature” (Kalland and Asquith, 1997), careful packaging will help to preserve the product, and “nature” as well. However, such traditional values might not be a major player in overpackaging. The growing affluence of Japanese consumers may encourage producers to overpackage, in hopes of improving their customer service for larger market shares. However, such economic development is not unique to Japan while overpackaging is, so there should be some underlying “Japanese only” cultural reasons behind overpackaging. 

With regards to Japan shipping it’s waste to other countries, it highlights an important point of an ever increasing connection to each other and to nature. It shows that Japan’s obsessive use of plastic has caused inconvenience throughout the world. Through this interconnectedness, the pain of modernization and the development of consumerism may be felt across the globe. As is consistent with the arguments from Walker (2010), modernization (in the form of globalization), further enhances and reminds us of our close connection to each other and towards nature.

As mentioned in the article, petroleum industries are strongly against such a campaign. Perhaps, a play of power could be seen. Despite having the political power to draft and implement environment policies, the national government’s reluctance displayed its political belief regarding plastic usage. Moreover, industries with economic interest could apply pressure to the government, showing another form of power-play to resist changes. The difference of economical power also manifests itself,  as the industry can use millions of dollars to improve its public images and engage politicians; most of the campaigners and people whose ways of life are threatened by climate change might not have access to such resources and methods.  

With regards to sustainability, the author calls for decisive actions to reduce consumption of plastic. Although Japan has done an incredible job in recycling plastic waste, reducing consumptions could be more fruitful (Moor, 2019), and should be the next step the government focuses on. In fact, recycling might not be as beneficial to the environment. According to (news or Plastic waste Management Institute Japan), 58% of the plastics goes through “thermal recycling”(Denyer, 2019), which incinerates plastics to produce electricity and heat. The sustainability of such a measure is questionable given that the process produces carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. Instead of reusing and recycling, Japan should now focus more on reducing and refusing plastic consumption, which could result in greater environmental benefits. 


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Kalland, A. and Asquith, P., 1997. Japanese Perceptions Of Nature. Pp.14,15.

Walker, B., 2010. Toxic Archipelago: A History Of Industrial Disease In Japan (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books). Seattle: University of Washington Press, p.8.

Denyer, S., 2019. Japan Wraps Everything In Plastic. Now It Wants To Fight Against Plastic Pollution.. [online] The Washington Post. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 July 2020].

Moor, L., 2019. Is It Possible To Live A Sustainable Lifestyle In Tokyo? | Tokyo Weekender. [online] Tokyo Weekender. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 July 2020].

McCurry, J., 2019. Japan’s Plastic Problem: Tokyo Spearheads Push At G20 To Tackle Waste. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 July 2020].