Saturday, 10 November 2012

Do not litter in "Beautification Enforcement Areas"

On Monday, I was lost in the southern part of Kyoto city for a while. I was on a bus heading south, which was supposed to bring me to the new office of the organisation where I had been volunteering. Or so I thought. 
I stay in the north ward and the new office is located in the south. It never occurred to me that I would have to take the bus on the other side of the road to go further north first before I could get to the south. So I took the bus heading directly south instead. Turned out to be the wrong bus. Anyway, that's Kyoto's amazing bus routes for you. 
As I was lost in the streets, I came across a sign in a place which is a little off the usual tourist tracks. In Beautification Enforcement Areas, you will be fined up to 30 000 Yen for littering regardless of your nationality or status.
The way some of my new friends here asked me whether it is true that you get fined for littering in Singapore, I have somehow been made to imagine that my country is the only place in the world which impose fines for littering. So I was a little surprised at seeing that sign in Kyoto city.
Looking at the sign on a Kyoto street, I couldn't help but wonder where the "Beautification Enforcement Areas" in Kyoto are, and the rationale behind the regulation...Why should there be a difference between areas? Why should some areas be more "beautified" than others?


Poster series: Who are the messages targeting?

The first poster states "Molesters will not be let off!". When I first saw this poster which was pasted onto the wall at a Kyoto subway station, I wondered how the drawings of the angry-looking school girls could have any deterrent effect on molesters. 

More recently, I saw another poster pasted outside a shop in the middle of a residential area near my university. This time, the message stated on the poster is "Bullying is a crime! Absolutely shall not be let off!" The drawing of a gentle-looking lady who seems to be gesturing "no, no" with her hand again made me wonder how a poster like this could deter bullying.

Just as I was thinking that whoever designed these posters had absolute disregard of whether the messages are being diluted or not with the use of the drawings, it suddenly occurred to me that I got the target audience wrong.
The posters are probably not targeting the perpetrators at all, but the victims! They are appealing to the victims to come forward and seek help, many of whom are probably junior high students.
From that perspective then, are the posters effective? What do you think?

Friday, 2 November 2012

Instant ramen stations

Last semester, in one of the speaking classes, a classmate talked about the top most common food prepared by students in his dormitory. It was instant ramen, or cup noodles. 
For the busy student, the convenience offered by instant ramen is irresistible. And I can empathise.  I too got started on instant ramen when I first came to this city, and we all know how the wide variety of flavours they have here and the packaging can be really enticing. Fortunately, it never became a habit because I discovered the fun of cooking with Kyoto vegetables.
At school, there are many students to whom instant ramen is part and parcel of the busy school life. During lunch time, tables with hot water dispensers lined with students preparing their cup noodles are a common sight. Definitely not something our Health Promotion Board will approve of.
The instant ramen stations were a little of a shock to me at first. As convenient as instant ramen is, I really don't think it should be encouraged like this. I guess the onus is on the students to exercise moderation and I do hope they do.

Putting out the garbage

When I first came to Kyoto, how to deal with the garbage was an issue which the school's orientation programme covered with some detail.  I recall the course coordinator telling us to follow the rules in handling our garbage if we want to enjoy good relations with our landlord and neighbours.
In Kyoto city, there are garbage bags with "Kyoto City" printed on them that residents have to buy to discard their garbage in. There are basically two types of garbage bags - yellow ones for combustibles and transparent ones for recyclables.  There are various sources of information online on how to dispose garbage but it is always good to ask the landlord or neighbour for details as there may be slight differences depending on where you stay.
In my case for example, my landlady lines the garbage bins at my mansion with the designated plastic bags so I don't have to buy them. We can just transfer our garbage from home directly into the bins. As we have a "centralised" garbage disposal system at my mansion in which my landlady will clear the garbage bins and put out the garbage for collection, we don't have to be concerned with garbage collection dates either.
Typically, on the morning of garbage collection, properly tied garbage bags placed along the streets at designated collection points are a common sight. The garbage collection trucks will collect these bags from the streets.
A garbage collection point along a street. The yellow plate hung on the railing
shows the collection date for different types of garbage.
As garbage disposal in my case is almost as routine as how it has been in Singapore, it has never really occurred to me to write about garbage collection until I came across this particular sight downtown, at the busy Shijo Kawaramachi shopping street (see picture below).

McDonald's garbage piled up in front of the restaurant at the Shijo Kawaramachi
shopping street.
I was alittle taken aback by the sight as I thought the garbage affected the look and feel of this bustling shopping street popular with locals and tourists. It also led me to wonder why garbage trucks have to collect garbage from the main street and not from the back street.  I guess it probably boils down to efficiency, that it may be quicker to collect the garbage from the main street than to ply through back streets. 
In any case, I do think the bags of garbage piled up in front of shops in a shopping street look really out of place...