In his fascinating book Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan (wwww.justenoughjapan.com), Azby Brown documents how, in the mid-nineteenth century, the country was “conservation-minded, waste-free, well-housed and well-fed, and economically robust”.
Today Japan’s government is rediscovering the virtues of such sustainable living. At the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in 2009, Japan announced its medium-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from the 1990 level by 2020. Then, in April 2010, Tokyo launched a mandatory scheme to cut carbon dioxide emissions from large office buildings and factories.
Citizens are also striving to live life in a healthier, more organic and sustainable way. There’s Mottanai (wmottainai.info/english/who.html), a project to promote a self-sustaining society through reducing waste, reusing finite resources and recycling, while the town of Ogawa, in Saitama prefecture north of Tokyo, has become a model of organic agriculture: food waste is recycled into liquid fertilizer and methane gas and organic food products such as sake, soy sauce and dried noodles have been developed.
The blog Tokyo Green Space (wtokyogreenspace.wordpress.com) highlights bright eco ideas practiced in the capital. Some of these, such as the Ginza Bee Project (wgin-pachi.jp), where 300,000 bees make honey from nectar collected in nearby parks, and the minuscule Ginza Farm (wwww.iknowledge.jp/ginza_farm), recall what life was like two centuries ago when Tokyo was called Edo.
For an insight into Japan’s forward-thinking sustainable technologies and ideas, there’s the annual Eco-Products fair (weco-pro.com/eco2009/english/index.html). It’s also worth visiting Greenz.jp (wgreenz.jp/en) to find out about Green Drinks, a monthly get-together of eco-aware people in Tokyo, or dropping by Ecozzeria (wwww.ecozzeria.jp), an environmental strategy centre in Tokyo’s Shin-Marunouchi Building.