Japanimosity: The Battle Over the Toaster Oven

I lived in Niigata from 2007 through 2009. The Japanese separate most of their trash into 5 or 6 types, although the number of bins in any given prefecture can run in excess of 20. All of these, by the way, are collected on different days. The once-quiet Niigata community suffered a cataclysmic crisis when I tried to dispose of my broken toaster oven. Innocently, I put the appliance outside among other people’s large trash: mattresses, bookshelves, computer parts, etc. The following day, my company received a call reporting an abomination, an unforgivable stain on the Asahi Mansions in which I resided. Yours truly had disposed of her damaged toaster; I calmly took responsibility and agreed to hold onto it until the proper “large unburnable” trash collection day. No problem, right? PROBLEM. The landlord wasn’t finished with me. I’m an easy target for the Japanese trash bureaucracy because gai-jin (“foreigners”) just don’t understand. Psh. Well, this guy tries to blame the blonde for not only the oven, but a laundry list of other appliances including a VCR, a vacuum, a busted TV and even some improperly sorted garbage (putting plastics with the burnables is a big no-no). I refused to take the heat for any of this other shit; my manager wanted to preserve the social harmony and suggested that I take all of the rubbish into my house anyway. In a very polite, indirect and essentially Japanese manner I basically said, “No fucking way.” The next day, I found a pile of crap outside of my door, all marked with stickers saying #202 (my apartment number). Apparently the junk had been informally “registered” to my apartment. Furious, I called my manager who spoke once more with the landlord; they told me that apparently all of the rubbish was mine because there were stickers on it that said #202. Wait, let me get this straight: I hadn’t had time to get a decent cell phone or my Japanese foreigner registry card, but I had adorned my all of my refuse with neat little stickers? Such a crock. The rubbish war raged on. Sometimes my ears burned walking down the streets; some old women seemed to be whispering,

“Oh, that’s the girl!”

“Yeah, did you hear about that toaster oven?”

“She didn’t?!”

“Oh yes… she did.”


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