Japan is often viewed as an "over-industrialized" country that doesn't value its natural environment enough, an image that Prime Minister Hatoyama is hoping to change as he meets with President Obama this weekend. While it's true the country can be somewhat rough on its natural resources, damming 98% of its rivers and actually encasing mountainsides in concrete on the off chance that there might be a landslide someday, there are other areas where Japan is surprisingly green. Dozens of household products are sold in full-sized bottles as well as inexpensive refill packs, so you can keep using the same bottle again and again. Gomi (trash) is meticulously separated in to different types, including "burnable," plastic, steel and aluminum cans, PET bottles, and glass, to encourage meaningful recycling. Japan is generally more energy efficient, too, thanks to the custom of only heating the room you're currently using rather than the whole house, and there's an entire class of smaller fuel-efficient "K" cars that come with tax benefits for owners. Recently my home prefecture of Gunma has come up with an innovative new way to get people to think about the environment, by creating a kawaii super-hero version of Gunma-chan, the official prefectural horse mascot. It's certainly designed to appeal to Japanese consumers.
There's a new super hero fighting for the environment in our prefecture.