Tokyobling's Blog

Ameyokocho At Dark – 1900th post

Posted in Places by tokyobling on April 10, 2014

I took these photos of one of the more popular tourist destinations in Tokyo on Midnight eve last year, just as the stores and the fishmongers were closing down I was stopped by a phalanx of guardmen advancing down the street followed by a veritable armada or convoy of garbage trucks. The Ameyokocho is famous for its incredible high turnover shopping and it is packed to its limits with people most of the day and now I finally got to see what happens at closing time when all the garbage needs to be cleared up. It was beautifully choreographed and over in a matter of minutes. With the crew of trucks, the drivers and the guards clearing the way ahead there must have been well over 50 people sweeping down on each narrow street, clearing up small mountains of garbage in one fell swoop.

Garbage disposal in central Tokyo with its population of between 13 and 15 million people (depending on the time of the day) is a massive undertaking. The majority of all household garbage is sorted and recycled while strict rules handle industrial and construction waste. The burnable garbage collected is incinerated and creates heat, electricity and material for the many landfill projects ongoing in the capital. It has been calculated that if the waste material was not burned but simply dumped into Tokyo bay the the entire bay would be filled in less than a century at the current pace. Moving all of this material to somewhere less populated and then burning it is an impossible project. There is nowhere within a couple of hours drive from central Tokyo that is not as densely populated as London! Hence there are waste disposal plants scattered all over the city with state of the art emissions control. The plants have gotten around the “not in my backyard mentality” by incorporating free sports and pool facilities providing plenty of incentives for neighborhood to host these plants.

Air quality in Tokyo is generally good to excellent, much better than in many small town and cities in Europe. In spring however the air usually turns quite bad as pollution with a poetic sense of justice drifts over from China. Since so much of the pollution comes from producing goods that are actually used by the people of Tokyo.

But apart from the well thought out garbage collection in Ameyokocho the area is hugely popular with residents and tourists alike for it old time feel and the bargains to be had. It is also great fun to listen to the banter and the peculiar dialects of the fishmongers as they compete for customer attention at the top of their voices. It is a marvel any of these men still have vocal cords at all! The last few photos are from the main street of Ueno as you escape Ameyokocho just to the south. And I could not not share this photo of the statue of Saigo Takamori walking his dog.

Oh, and this happens to be the 1900th post online right now (not including the posts I have deleted along the way). Maybe I will hit 2000 posts sometime in August this year?

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8 Responses

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  1. Andrzej Wisniewski said, on April 10, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Nice, great story about the waste system. Are people inclined to waste less, meaning throw out less garbage, in any way?

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    • tokyobling said, on April 10, 2014 at 5:38 am

      Thanks Andrzej! I honestly don’t know – there is just so much noise in the statistics and even though I see mountains of garbage on the streets of Tokyo every morning I can’t make any conclusions since the population density of where I live is just many times that of London, Moscow, Paris, Stockholm, Warszawa or Madrid. I know that there is much less litter than in any European country, and I know that Japanese have much smaller living area than Europeans and many times less that of Americans, so logically they aren’t able to shop as much or store as much crap. Then again, Japanese food stuff is wrapped in wrappings that is wrapped in other wrappings. On the whole, I’d say the Japanese I know are very conservative when it comes to garbage and don’t throw much away. But that could just be anecdotal.

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      • Andrzej Wisniewski said, on April 10, 2014 at 5:42 am

        Thanks. That does make a lot of sense, and I think living in much smaller real estate makes you think twice about many things like that, and that definitely becomes your second nature.
        I agree – Tokyo is super clean despite such a dense area, and unlike Singapore – they don’t need to terror people with 500$ fines for littering to keep the place clean. Still they are far ahead of any European city, that is true.

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        • tokyobling said, on April 10, 2014 at 5:55 am

          Haha… here the fine is only about 95$ USD, but I have never seen anyone get ticketed or even heard of anyone getting ticketed. (^-^;)

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  2. Tasha said, on April 10, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Reblogged this on 恋の予感 and commented:
    Oh gosh, I’ve been here before. I loved this place. So it’s called Ameyokocho? I’ve only ever known it as Ueno.

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    • tokyobling said, on April 11, 2014 at 12:41 am

      Thanks Tasha! Yes, the shopping street area is called Ameyokocho, and it is right between Ueno and Okachimashi JR stations. Where is called what in this area is pretty complicated! (^-^;)

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      • amadl said, on April 11, 2014 at 3:06 am

        I was Like Tasha, I went there and I thought it was ‘Ueno’ too :p
        Loved the area by day, and finaLLy got to see how it is by night

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        • tokyobling said, on April 11, 2014 at 3:49 am

          There are huge signs showing the name of the streets at the entrance as you can see in the first photo of this blog post, but they are high up and there is so much interesting stuff going on at street level I can understand you missed them!

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