Friday, May 26, 2006

Madness in Ishikawa

Sorry for the long gap in-between posts - JETfuel has been taking up all my time, but finally I am free! The wheel of the good ship JETfuel has been passed on to the new editors, Jody and Dan - may the winds of journalism be kind under your captaincy.

Anyway, Ishikawa. During the Golden Week holidays a group of us set out on a 3 day camping trip to the Noto Hanto peninsula in Ishikawa - the sort of finger-like protrusion that sticks out from the mainland into the Sea of Japan. I didn't really know what to expect, having read absolutely nothing about it before, but I had a map with a couple of campsites marked on it so that was enough for me. Into the car we bundled, my poor little Daihatsu Mira straining under the weight of three passengers plus camping gear - in fact we bottomed out the suspension a couple of times. You've gotta love these little k-cars.

Seeing as I was the one who suggested the camping trip in the first place, I became the de-facto "leader", which was a bit of a joke since I had as little idea about where I was going as everyone else. On the plus side though, I had a map, so there was a definite advantage to my position. I carefully selected the Oshima campsite as our first port of call, chiefly because it was the nearest and I couldn't be bothered to carry on driving. Also, my car was falling apart, and Tim had eaten some ill-advised rubbery cheese sausages with egg embedded in them, which was causing him to let off the most tremendous trumps I've had the misfortune to smell.

Upon arrival we quickly evacuated the car (leaving the doors open so the fumes could dissipate) and set up the barbecue. The weather was amazing, the campsite was beautiful (a pine wood set behind some dunes) and the brief glimpse we had of the golden, sandy beach on the way in looked enticing. It was going to be a good holiday.

Once we'd eaten our fill of burgers, shrimp and unidentifiable meat (though in my case I stuck to the peppers and mushrooms, natch) everyone decided it would be a good idea to head off and explore the beach before the sun went down. Off we trooped towards the golden shoreline, only to discover... well, to be blunt, an ecological disaster.

The beach was covered, literally covered, in rubbish. Bottles, cans, shoes, computers, fridges - you name it, it was there. We couldn't believe it. It was by far the worst beach I had ever seen. Ever. I was thinking "Well, perhaps they haven't got round to clearing up yet after the winter", but then that can't be an excuse - it was May after all, not to mention the busiest holiday season of the entire year in Japan. Plus there was far, far too much rubbish - it looked like this stuff had been piling up for years. Some of it had obviously drifted across the sea from Korea, judging by the Korean writing on some of the cans and bottles, but most of it was obviously Japanese, and some of the items were too big to have just been washed up - they must have been dumped. Like this computer...

I think seeing a beach in such a state is all the more shocking when you consider just how clean the rest of Japan is - the cities bask in spotless pavements (despite the bizarre lack of litter bins) and most people are obsessive to the point of being anal about separating and disposing of their rubbish. So what happened at Oshima?

It was a bit like wandering into Japan's bedroom while it was at school and discovering "Asian Babes do Anal" hidden underneath its mattress. I mean, it can bang on about how it's "not normally like this" and "someone else must have put it there" all it wants, but it means nothing as you wave the incriminating evidence in its face.

So much for all the spiel on the Ishikawa prefectural website about "Coexistence of People and Nature". Apparently the "Preservation of our rich natural environment and protection of wild flora and fauna" is one of their primary goals. My arse it is. They really need to work on number 3 first: "Improvement of prefectural citizen's morals regarding the environment".

Actually, speaking of nature preservation, there was a curious sign at the end of the beach, with a picture of two flies on it. I took a photo of it, and later had it translated into English - you won't believe what it says. The beach is a nature preserve. Yep, that's right, apparently the beach is home to a very rare species of sand fly, and there's a 50,000 yen fine for anyone who disturbs the flies, and a possible jail sentence for anyone caught removing them from the beach. Although it seems that leaving bottles, cans and shoes for them to play in is perfectly OK.

As I said, madness. You can read an excellent account of the rest of the trip at Colin's blog - trust me, there was more madness to come.


Blogger the englishman said...

how on earth did my fridge end up there?

1:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sub heading of the Ishikawa site you link to says ".....& creation of a recycle oriented society."
I think that beach is an assualt training ground for prefecture eco-warriors, a bit like Salisbury Plain is for the British Army.

2:17 am  

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