WTF Fun Fact 13330 – Kamikatsu Recycling

Kamikatsu recycling is intense. Citizens are expected to separate their recycling into 45 different categories! Kamikatsu is a small town located in Tokushima prefecture in Japan. It has become a paragon of innovation in waste management and, more specifically, recycling.

How did the strict Kamikatsu recycling program begin?

They began their journey to zero waste began in 2003 when the government mandated a policy to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. The town stepped up in a big way, making its unique zero-waste initiative become a model for sustainability.

Kamikatsu’s strict recycling program requires residents to sort their waste into 45 different categories. The program is designed to maximize the amount of waste that can be recycled or reused and minimize the amount of waste that goes to landfills.

Some of the categories include:

  • Paper (including newspapers, magazines, cardboard, and packaging)
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Aluminum cans and foil
  • Steel cans
  • Plastic containers (sorted by type)
  • PET bottles (sorted by color)
  • Tetra Pak packaging (such as juice boxes)
  • Food waste (to be composted)
  • Textiles (such as clothing and fabric)
  • Appliances and electronics
  • Batteries
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Bulky waste (such as furniture and mattresses)
  • Construction waste

Residents are even required to wash their waste before placing it into the correct bins.

What are the challenges of this type of program?

The town’s recycling facility has separate areas for each category of waste, and staff members carefully sort the materials. Of course, this comes with challenges. One is the cost of transportation – the town is in a remote location.

The second challenge is one all towns and cities face – the need to change the mindset and behavior of residents. The town has implemented a variety of programs to educate residents about the importance of waste reduction and recycling, including workshops, events, and campaigns.

However, changing deeply ingrained habits and attitudes takes time and persistence. As you might imagine, the town’s strict recycling requirements have been met with mixed reactions from residents. Some find the requirements to be burdensome and time-consuming.

Nevertheless, Kamikatsu has become a model for sustainable waste management and has earned international recognition for its sustainability project.

Meeting goals

Originally, the goal was for Kamikatsu to become a zero-waste town by 2020. While the town did not exactly happen, it has made significant progress in reducing its waste output.

By 2020, over 80% of its waste was being recycled, composted, or reused. The town has also taken steps towards becoming carbon-neutral, building a solar power plant and financing a project to turn food waste into biogas.

In 2016, the town opened its Zero Waste Academy to educate visitors about its recycling program.

Kamikatsu’s journey towards zero waste and carbon neutrality is a glimpse into a sustainable future and an inspiration to individuals and communities around the world.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “‘No-waste’ Japanese village is a peek into carbon-neutral future” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13248 – The Wind Phone

Itaru Sasaki’s wind phone (“kaze no denwa” in Japanese) is a telephone booth located on a hill in Otsuchi, Japan. The booth is a way for people to connect with loved ones who passed away in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the area. The wind phone has become a symbol of hope, healing, and connection for people worldwide.

What’s the story behind the wind phone?

Sasaki was inspired to create the booth after he lost his cousin in a tsunami. He wanted to create a space where people could talk to their loved ones who had passed away. The goal was to help them feel a sense of connection and comfort. Sasaki constructed the phone booth on property which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and installed a disconnected rotary phone inside it.

The phone booth is designed to be a quiet, peaceful space where people can reflect and connect with their loved ones. It is open to the public. The booth has become a popular destination for people from around the world. They come to leave messages for their loved ones and to listen to the wind.

The wind phone has become a symbol of hope and healing for many people. The sound of the wind blowing through the phone is an important element. It creates a sense of connection with the natural world and the spirits of dead loved ones. People who have visited the phone have described feeling a sense of peace and comfort after leaving messages.

The legacy of the phone booth

The phone has also become a symbol of resilience for the people of Otsuchi. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami were among the worst natural disasters in Japan’s history. They caused widespread destruction and loss of life. The phone is a reminder of the power of human connection and the importance of finding ways to heal and move forward after tragedy.

The phone booth has inspired people worldwide to create their own versions of the phone booth. There are installations in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

The wind phone has also been the subject of a documentary titled “The Phone of the Wind: Whispers to Lost Families.” It explores the history and significance of the phone booth. The film includes interviews with Sasaki and people who have visited the phone and left messages for loved ones over the years.  WTF fun facts

Source: My Wind Phone

WTF Fun Fact 13137 – The Snowiest City in the World

The snowiest city in the world is in Japan. And we’re not sure why, but we really didn’t see that coming. We would have guessed someplace in Siberia or Canada. But the award for the snowiest city goes to northern Japan’s Aomori City.

More about the snowiest city in the world

Aomori City averages 312 inches (that’s about 26 feet) of snow each year! And it has a population of over 280,000 people. That’s A LOT of shoveling that needs to happen to keep a city moving.

On an island nation, you might wonder where they put all that snow. The answer is right into the bay.

If you’re interested, here’s a quite long video showing how it all goes down:

Now, there are likely snowier places on Earth, but people don’t live there. Aomori City is the snowiest place where people actually live.

Why is Aomori City so snowy?

According to CNN (cited below), “The extreme snowfall is caused by chilly Siberian winds that sweep into Japan from the northwest every November. As the cold air crosses over the warmer waters off Japan’s mountainous coastline, it gathers moisture, then rises and turns into snow.”

You may have heard of “lake effect snow,” but what Japan gets is “sea effect snow.” Since the sea doesn’t really freeze, they get thick, powdery snow until all the way up until April. And the city’s suburbs get blanketed as well.

Like so many snowy cities, residents aren’t thrilled about the snow, but they’re prepared for it. And the city makes the most of it. Things don’t close down easily, and the city takes advantage of tourism dollars from skiers and other snow-lovers. They also have amazing seafood, which is especially plentiful during the snowy months.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Aomori, Japan: Life in one of the world’s snowiest cities” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 13095 – Hiroshima, Rabbit Island

Okunoshima (aka Rabbit Island) is a small island located in the Inland Sea of Japan, 43 miles east of the city of Hiroshima. It used to be used for weapons testing but is now inhabited by adorable bunnies.

 WTF fun facts


WTF Fun Fact 12987 – Japan’s Star-Shaped Sand

Have you heard of the star-shaped sand in Okinawa, Japan? It’s one of nature’s fun little surprises.

Star-shaped sand particles

You can find the star sand on the Taketomi, Hatoma, and Iriomote islands of Japan. In many ways, it’s just like other beach sand. Except it has a distinct star shape that you can see with the naked eye.

According to the website Travel Awaits (cited below): “The Taketomi, Hatoma, and Iriomote islands, home to the stars, are all part of the Yaeyama Islands located off the mainland of Japan. They are both the southernmost and westernmost inhabited islands in the country. Unlike the many popular metropolis tourist destinations on the country’s mainland, visitors to these islands experience a tropical retreat. Tourists should come ready both to relax and to discover incredible little stars on the ground.”

But these “stars” are actually exoskeletons.

“Unlike most beaches, the sand on Hoshizuna Beach and other surrounding Japanese beaches is made up not of rocks and minerals, but rather of the remnants of previous organisms. Each little star is the exoskeleton of small, single-celled organisms known as Foraminifera. This means that, though the sand is no longer alive, it once was part of a living organism in the Pacific Ocean.

The world’s rarest sand

These specific organisms are called Baculogypsina sphaerulata, and they’re only found in the coral reefs of East Asia. That makes the star-shaped sand among the rarest in the world.

If you’re interested in other rare types of sand, you can venture to Hawaii’s Papakolea Beach to see olive green sand made of crystallized magma, head to California’s Pfeiffer Beach to see their garnet sand, or plan a trip to New Zealand’s Muriwai Black Sand Beach, which is made up of dark volcanic glass. WTF fun facts

Source: “The Truth Behind Japan’s Star Sand Beaches” — Travel Awaits

WTF Fun Fact 12809 – The Japanese Silver Sake Cup

It’s long been a tradition in Japan to send centenarians a sterling silver sake cup to celebrate their big 3-digit birthday, along with a congratulatory letter. But the Japanese silver sake cup has been downgraded because so many people in Japan live to be 100 or older.

Paying respects with a silver sake cup

The sterling silver cup has been a tradition for over 50 years (since 1963, to be exact), but in 2015, the government was forced to change it up a bit.

Handing out that much sterling silver was getting far too expensive – to the tune of millions of dollars. Since 2015,

Now, the celebratory sakazuki is made of silver plated nickel. This halved the cost of the gifts.

An aging population

According to a 2015 article in The Guardian (cited below):

“In 1963 Japan had just 153 centenarians, and as recently as 1998 the number stood at just 10,000. At the last count Japan’s 100-plus age group numbered almost 59,000, and that figure is expected to rise when the government releases new population data before Seniors’ Day on 15 September.

Last year the ministry spent 260 million yen (£1.3m) on giving the cups – each worth about 8,000 yen – to almost 30,000 people, including 25,000 women. Local media pointed out that some people die before the gifts can be distributed, forcing them to be scrapped.”

Japanese women live the longest of any other population (an average of 86.3 years).

Around quarter of Japan’s population is 65 or older, and that population is expected to reach 40% by 2050. The country citizens have not had enough children to replace their current population since the 1970s.

The country houses roughly 80,000 centenarians! So now we’re wondering if the secret is drinking a lot of sake!

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Japan considers cheaper congratulatory cups for soaring number of centenarians” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 12721 – The Wara Art Festival

Niigata isn’t a typical travel destination, but it does draw people in for a unique festival held each year between August and October.

The Wara Art Festival is held in Uwasekigata Park and shows off amazing sculptures made of rice straw left over after the annual rice harvest.

People weren’t quite sure what to do with all the straw, but now tons of it is donated to art students at Musashino Art University in Tokyo as well as local volunteers who are tasked with making giant animal sculptures with it. Some of them are up to 16 feet tall!

The sculptures include gorillas, dinosaurs, bears, rhinos, and more. Underneath is a wood frame skeleton to ensure the sculptures stay up throughout the festival, but over two weeks, more and more layers of wara are added. Some are braided, others thatched – in fact, there are many techniques the artists use to build their sculptures.

If you do go to Niigata for the festival, be sure to try the rice, which is considered to be the best in all of Japan. And according to Japan’s tourism association, the town is also known for its sake as well “thanks to the high snowfall in the prefecture which creates pristine conditions for rice growing. Centuries-old sake making traditions are kept alive by the toji, or Sake Masters, of Niigata. Local sake from breweries in Niigata are revered nationwide for their dry, sharp finish and refreshingly crisp flavour.”

If you visit the park, there are sake breweries within walking distance as well as beer breweries to visit.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Wara Art Festival, Niigata” — Japan National Tourism Association

WTF Fun Fact 12617 – “Flame Grilled” Cologne

It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, but it did happen in Japan on April 1st. In 2015, Burger King Japan released a limited edition cologne made so men could smell like meat. Because who wouldn’t love that?

It was called “Flame Grilled,” and it was specifically designed to smell just like the fast-food chain’s famous Whopper. It cost $41 and was sold for just one day.

You may recall the shenanigans of Burger King Japan from 2013 when, according to Forbes, “the chain offered a “BiKing” (pronounced like ‘Viking’) an all-you-can-eat Whopper promotion in which customers could eat as many Whoopers as they wanted for 30 minutes after placing their first order for the set. The same year they offered a “Black Ninja” burger, a Whopper patty with a piece of hash brown and a long slab of bacon that resembled a tongue, all sandwiched between two black buns.”

Forbes continued: “The most notable offering by the chain so far has been their Kuro (black) burgers, a culinary oddity that was sold for a limited time last year. The burgers were made with black buns, black cheese, and even a garlic sauce made black by actual powdered squid ink.”

But don’t blame Burger King Japan. The chain has some worldwide weirdness going on. We would have written off the whole fragrance thing as a quick joke, except it wasn’t Burger King’s first fragrance release. In 2008, the chain released “Flame” cologne, and it was available through Ricky’s in NYC. Apparently, it was supposed to be alluring to wear “the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat.” We’re just not so sure that the second part fits. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Burger King’s Flame-Grilled Beef Scented Cologne: Perfect For Japanese Men Seeking Carnivore Women?” — Forbes

WTF Fun Fact 12592 – The Robot Monk

Softbank’s former line of Pepper robots took on many tasks in Japan, including duties in hospitals, retail stores, and even Buddhist temples. Pepper was even programmed to become a stand-in for a Buddhist monk, news outlets reported in 2017.

While the robot monks can deliver blessings and beat a drum, their real purpose is to preside over funeral services in Japan, which has a significantly increasing elderly population.

The robot funerals not only pick up some slack when there aren’t enough human monks to go around, but they’re economical as well. A robot funeral cost about 1/5 of what a regular one would

It’s a question for the ethicists and theologians.

Another interesting fact is that human Buddhist monks have shown the same respect for robots as well, presiding over ceremonial funerals for obsolete robotic dogs in Japan.

– WTF fun facts

Source: “The Robot Priest” — Tech Top 10 List