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Sodai Gomi

June 25th, 2007

Today was the first of two “Sodai Gomi,” or “large garbage” days for me. In Japan, when you have trash that exceeds a certain size or is of a certain type, you have to use the sodai-gomi system to get rid of it. Since few people have vehicles suitable for carrying off large junk to the junkyard, this system suffices in its place.

Sodaigomi-Ticket-Inagi

The first step is to visit your city hall, where they can give you a list of prices for all different manner of junk, and a phone number to call for information and reservations. Then you go to your local supermarket or convenience store which sells tickets for sodai-gomi. These are adhesive stickers (not very adhesive, alas) which come in price increments of 250, 500, 1000, and 2000 yen (at least where I live–your city may differ). I bought 25 tickets all told. You’re supposed to put your name on the stickers, which might be a good idea since they can be removed rather easily, and are essentially money, like postage stamps. Then you make a phone call to the sodai-gomi center, and tell them when you’ll be putting out your trash. And finally, you put the trash out in the appropriate place for your street, with the stickers affixed. The haulers will come in and take it away.

So, last night, I hauled all of the junk that one person could carry to the gomi pile, and it was quite a haul. A video deck, three old carpets, two stools, two gas heaters, a gas stove, a suitcase, an old plastic mat, an old scanner, and two old printers. I also had two laser disc players, which involves a little story (as you may wonder why I had even one, much less two). Some years back, my brother and his wife used a laser disc player. They found that LD discs could be bought cheap here, and when I caught on, I bought a cheap player myself and got several discs. Of course, the machines are monstrous and the discs themselves huge, so as soon as they got the chance, my brother and his wife transferred them to DVDs. I figured I would as well, and since my machine was buggy and they no longer needed theirs (they had paid to get it fixed so they could do the transfers), I took theirs to do my transfers. Having finished, I had no use for either machine and so dumped them.

That was late last night, around midnight. This morning, I woke up and looked outside to see the gomi pile disturbed. At first I just thought that someone had knocked over my suitcase while putting out their pink-bag unburnable garbage.

Sdg-Sodaipilepre

But on a closer look, I found that something else had happened–a few items seemed to be missing: the laser disc players and the scanner. The person who took them had removed the sodai-gomi stickers and had stuck them on my suitcase. The suitcase was askew because the laser disc players had been next to them. Other trash had also been moved aside to get at them.

Sdg-Suitcase

Now, I found this to be very bizarre. First of all, it was raining, not the most opportune time to snatch electronics from the outside junk pile. Second, who the hell wants laser disc players any more? I supposed that this person had a disc collection they couldn’t play anymore or something. And third, the scanner? I did not include the power cable, nor did I include the ancient SCSI cable–not to mention, who has a SCSI-capable computer anymore these days? It occurred to me that maybe this was the work of the junk shop people, but they would probably have passed up on junk like that, instead taking the still-functional gas heaters, or even the less-ancient printer. I also can’t figure out if the pasting of the extra stickers on my suitcase was a courtesy or a rudeness. I also have to wonder if this person will be dumping the machines back out on the gomi pile when they figure out that the machines (or at least two of them) are not functioning. Hopefully, I won’t even be around to have to deal with it.

Now, foreigners have a history of taking this stuff, and I think we usually figured that we were the main ones doing it. But I’m pretty sure no foreigner was involved here, as they’re pretty scarce in this area. I know the only other non-Japanese tenant in this complex, and he didn’t strike me as they type.

This kind of thing is not too uncommon, by the way–Sachi put her sewing machine in the gomi pile a week or so ago, only to find it gone before it could be picked up.

It’s not that it’s a terrible thing–after all, it is junk, and if it can be used, great–but I did spend about twelve bucks on the tickets to haul those items away, which are now wasted. I guess the thing to do is to put your sodai-gomi out a week in advance, and what is not absconded with, then you buy tickets for.

Next week, the movers will put the rest of my sodai-gomi out, the big stuff–two book cabinets, a metal-frame cabinet, a computer desk, a regular desk, my bed frame, and a TV cabinet. Doubt that’ll get hauled off before the city people come, unless the garbage snatchers are very resourceful.

Update: It turns out that the printers are gone as well; I must have missed them before. Maybe it was the garbage guys. That would mean that you should set large junk out a week ahead of time without tickets, on the sodai-gomi pickup day; whatever doesn’t get taken, then you buy a ticket for. I could have saved about twenty bucks had I thought of that….

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  1. June 25th, 2007 at 12:29 | #1

    It’s likely that those items were taken by the same people who drive around in trucks asking for old CD players, televisions, computers, etc. They don’t need them to be functional because they strip them for parts and repair other items or repair them themselves. Your brother and I hear these trucks driving around once a week (at least) making their announcements so, when we have an electronic item to get rid of, he runs out and chases them down to see if they’ll take the items rather than us having to pay to have them disposed of. So far, they’ve taken his dead Dell laptop, my dead 17″ monitor, a functional but extraneous VCR, and a 50 CD changer off our hands and spared us the cost of the sodai gomi stickers.

    If those trucks drive around making announcements, they may also drive around checking trash piles since free junk is where they make their money.

    It may have been other scavengers, of course, but considering the rain, that seems less likely.

  2. Luis
    June 25th, 2007 at 12:35 | #2

    It could be that, but I’m not so certain. True, the sodai-gomi pickup is always on a Monday, so the junk people might indeed check the piles everywhere Monday morning early. However, I’ve never noticed them coming before in the 7 years I’ve been here. Maybe they come at some ungodly hour, I dunno. Could be. But even so–laser disk repair? And the items they took are not the kind with interchangeable parts, or so I would figure.

    Also, those guys saved you more than just sodai-gomi stickers. Your computers and monitors are not allowed in sodai-gomi. You have to have them disposed of by the junk dealers, who usually charge you quite a bit for such stuff.

  3. June 25th, 2007 at 14:49 | #3

    In residential areas with mostly houses I see a lot of people doing just that. On any given weekend, I often see a whole pile of stuff in front of a house with a sign that says “Free for anyone who wants it”

    I have a patio table and chairs that I’m trying to get rid of and maybe will do that.

  4. ykw
    June 26th, 2007 at 03:24 | #4

    In my neighborhood (boston, ma), folks put stuff on the sidewalk w/ a sign that says “please take” and are often amazed at how quickly it disappears. I think some folks love junk. I works w/ this one fellow that collects old stuff and trys to revive it. His house is loaded up w/ old stuff. He loves to try to sell it on ebay after reviving it. It drives his wife crazy, yet he loves to tinker. It would be interesting to see what the ebay value is for those things that disappeared.

  5. Andy
    June 26th, 2007 at 17:33 | #5

    Hey I still have SCSI cables and a pair of PCI cards for them. Whats wrong with that? They are ultra wide.

  6. Luis
    June 26th, 2007 at 22:33 | #6

    Well, considering that SCSI cables are huge, slower than FireWire 800, and not hot-swappable, I would question the need or utility for them. Not to mention that they’re purely legacy cables at this point. But if you like ’em, that’s great for you.

  7. Paul
    June 27th, 2007 at 14:43 | #7

    This might sound crazy, but is it possible that the people that sell the tickets tip off the junk collector/fixer people to when/where they can find the stuff?

    In my old town, Enumclaw (about 11,000 people) the city government would have an annual “anything goes” trash hauling week.

    You could put almost ANYTHING out with your garbage and the city would pick it up and haul it away. There were some restrictions, like hazardous waste and such, but the point is that having this annual day cut way back on the amount of mattresses and other bulky crap that people want to throw out but don’t want to bother hauling off to the dump or transfer station on their own.

    And during that week, the junk dealers went nuts. They’d cruise up and down the alleys all night, picking through people’s trash.

    One time, I put out an assortment of stuff, and a good portion of it was gone by the time I walked the dog in the morning prior to going to work. The junk guys snagged an old garage door opener (which worked fine, it’s just that it was super-insecure due to really old technology), a cheap, warped old screen door, and other stuff that I couldn’t imagine keeping or using.

    Maybe the junk guys get tipped to when someone buys the tickets for electronics items.

  8. January 19th, 2009 at 19:44 | #8

    Hi Luis,
    Ur right i just stumbled across ur old blog from June 2007 when i googled sodai gome to check the spelling, etc. Then i followed the link as u instructed and here we are…I browsed a few of ur later blogs and noted we are on the same wavelength re-ur P. Bush who has only one day left, thank goodness!
    i shall return for more but in the meantime would invite u to check out still another dimension, following the link:
    http://www.myspace.com/hillwalkingeddie
    i’m just starting out as a blogger and who knows maybe i’ll style myself “sodai gomi” being more fully retired now than ever before…But i have a few Japanese connections though today i’m more Finn than Brit and many of my blogs at present are more in picture form…

    Well whatever the event I wish u all the best, good luck with ur new man in the white house and a pleasant continuation of ur Janpanese winter…

    eddie

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