7 Ideas for Sustainable Living in Japan

Japan has a long way to go in terms of reducing the carbon footprint or protecting the environment. It is easy to find cheap disposable items in stores, practical but often over-wrapped in plastic. We are very good at creating new products to make lives easier, yet not so good at recycling and reducing waste.

However, Japan used to be a frugal and sustainable country before entering the modern era. There are things that you can do here to live more eco-friendly lives in Japan. I will share with you 7 sustainable ideas that you can try in Japan.

7 Ideas to live sustainably in Japan

1. Be minimalist

Japan is the country where the zen culture developed. Zen encourages us to find a rich and full life in frugality and simplicity. Like zen buddhists who train themselves while owning a few necessary items, you can also find happiness in owning a few items. Instead of buying all the newest gadgets to fill your rooms, you can try the zen minimalism to find a new rich life.

2. Eat in instead of take away

In Japan, there are bento boxes and take away shops everywhere from convenience stores to fast food restaurants. It’s easy to take away food when you don’t feel like cooking, but they are often packaged in disposable plastic containers. If you take away food everyday, you will have a huge amount of plastic waste.

Fortunately in Japan, there are so many small and cheap restaurants you can eat in. It doesn’t cost too much and the warm dishes are served quickly. If you don’t have anyone to dine with, it’s okay. Many Japanese people eat out alone and it is not strange to see people in restaurants alone. You can eat ramen noodles or Japanese Teishoku lunch plates at restaurants while reducing waste.

3. Buy local and organic

If you live in a big city like Tokyo or Osaka, you can easily find foods from different countries. If you want to reduce carbon footprint, however, it helps to buy local foods and products. You can find them in supermarkets or greengrocers. The JA Group (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) have stores and farmers markets where you can find local vegetables and fruits.

If you have a budget, you can also buy organic foods to reduce the pesticide contamination of the soil. Here is the list of organic food stores in Tokyo.

4. Say no to plastic bags

When you shop in Japan, they tend to be overwrapped in plastic bags. If you don’t say anything, they automatically put the products in extra bags. When you don’t want bags, you can tell them in Japanese:

ふくろはいりません (Fukuro wa irimasen)
I don’t need a bag

You can start reducing plastic waste with this small phrase.

5. Take public transports

If you live in big or medium sized cities, the public transports are very good in Japan. We have trains and buses that can take us to many places. Shinkansens (bullet trains) are also fast and comfortable, so instead of taking a plane, you can use them to travel around the country.

6. Reduce meat and fish consumption

Japanese foods usually have meat or fish in them. If you want to live more sustainably, it’s good to start reducing the amount of meat or fish that you eat daily. There aren’t many vegetarian restaurants, but there are few foods that you can try.

Shojin Ryori is a traditional dish that buddhist monks eat during the training. They are made without meat, fish or animal products. We also have many dishes based on tofu that can replace meat or fish.

Here is the list of vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo.

7. Buy sustainable clothings

We have a lot of cheap fast fashion stores in Japan, but if we care about the environment, it’s better to choose second-hand or vintage clothes in thrift stores. You can find interesting clothes in the apps like Mercari or Rakuma where people can easily sell objects that they no longer need.

If you are interested in Japanese fashion, kimonos are also an excellent choice. You can find many amazing second-hand kimono shops to buy them for cheaper prices.

Enjoy the eco-friendly living in Japan!

When you are in Japan, you can be seduced by cool and new gadgets that make your life easier. It is hard to live sustainably like zen buddhists, but we can always make efforts. Like trying local vegetables or wearing kimono, you can enjoy living in Japan while making better choices for the planet. 

Whether you are living or traveling in Japan, I hope that you can try those ideas here!