Right around this time 15 years ago I left Nou-machi for a return to the US. My last day was spent assisting a team of city office folk in the stripping down and cleansing of my apartment (which, technically, was THEIR apartment).
It was bad enough having people around at a stressful time, but I also ran headlong into the way Japanese recycling law meets personal privacy. Except for a final polish on the kitchen and some final packing of boxes, my apartment was in decent shape. I’d even bagged the garbage and tied the bags shut. As soon as the team arrived, they broke open the bags and started sorting the paper garbage in to various types of recyclables. As I’ve mentioned before, to me, what makes something burnable garbage is the ability to burn. If it burns it is not necessary to consult a checklist and or book of rules especially when it leads to a privacy busting conversation.
I then had to explain 1) why I had a large collection of Psychometrer Eiji comic books and 2) why I was throwing them out and 3) was okay if one of the staff took them. (It was an awesome comic and good language study material; they were too heavy to move; yes, by all means now stop picking through my trash!)
My stress level was pretty high when I was driven to the post office to ship some stuff.
My employment status was vaguely uncertain and the people I was dealing with in what is still the company I work for (sort of) weren’t being helpful and I wasn’t sure if I had a job or when I’d start. I also didn’t have a place for my stuff. Because of this, I didn’t know how long I’d be in the USA and I sent a bunch of stuff home the expensive way. This was annoying enough, but when I got back to the apartment, the worker who’d driven me to the post office immediately announced to everyone present how much I’d spent.
An observer at that moment would have seen my head fly up off my body, spin around a few times and land back on my head at a slightly crooked angle. I was so angry I could barely speak English. Japanese was right out.
The infuriating thing was that none of them thought anything special about it at all until my head flew off. I’d made the big deal out of it; for them it was natural to know everything about everyone. It was like being in an especially small town.
After all these years, I still haven’t got used to having my trash exposed to the world. (Except via blogging, of course.)