Going Green: 4 Japanese Phrases to Help Reduce Plastic Waste | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
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Going Green: 4 Japanese Phrases to Help Reduce Plastic Waste

By Caitlin Collins Oct 12, 2022

One of the first things I noticed when I began shopping in Japan was the sheer number of plastic bags used! Over-packaging is, unfortunately, the norm here, and for many Japan’s plastic-heavy service industry that creates a massive amount of plastic waste can be a shocking change from shopping back home.

But if, like many, you are trying to watch your ecological footprint and the plastic-packaging mania of Japan gets you down—Don’t worry! Here are some useful Japanese phrases and tips you can use to help you cut down on excess plastic.

Phrases to Help Reduce Your Plastic Waste in Japan

First, let’s look at Japan’s service industry and the importance excess plastic plays in the industry. Japan is famous worldwide for exceptional customer service. Large and small companies alike pride themselves on offering the highest quality of products and meticulously train their employees to provide the best service possible for their customers. For many people, the best service means not having to think to ask for any changes to be made to the packaging.

Thankfully, the Japanese government worked hard to pass new nationwide legislation to charge a small service fee for plastic bags- but this does not stop everyone. And it usually doesn’t include the small transparent bags used for fruit, vegetables, tofu etc. So it’s important to be vigilant and ask for fewer bags or to use your own bag as soon as the checkout process begins. Some helpful phrases to remember are:

Phrase 1 – I Don’t Need a Bag

  1. ふくろはいりません Fukuro wa irimasen. – I don’t need a bag.

Japanese is a low-context language. If you remember the short phrase ‘irimasen’, which means “I don’t need it”, you can politely decline any extras you may not need. Some examples are:

  • ストローSutoro – Straw
  • ふた Futa – Lid
  • はし Hashi – Chopsticks
  • おみやげのふくろ Omiyage no fukuro – Gift bag

Phrase 2 – I Have My Own Bag

reusable bags to reduce japan plastic waste

Image credits: Canva.com

2.    バッグあります Baggu arimasu. – I have my own bag.

Usually, at most supermarkets, you do your own bagging. To let the cashier know you don’t need any additional plastic bags, let them know you’ve brought your own!

Or suppose it’s a large or specialised supermarket that offers bagging (for example, National supermarkets or Seijo Ishi). In that case, you can ask the cashier to put items in your bag using the phrase:

ここにいれてください Koko ni irete kudasai. – Please put it in here.

Phrase 3 – Together in the Bag Please/Please Use the Same Bag

3.   ふくろいっしょでおねがいします。Fukuro issho de onegaishimasu. – Together in the bag, please.

When you buy a bento or some snacks at the convenience store, cashiers will usually sort your items into hot and cold bags or separate them in some other way. If you only have a short travel time before enjoying, consider using just one bag! Keeping your items together means fewer things for you to juggle as you walk as well.

Phrase 4 – Can You Use This Cup?

reusable cup to reduce plastic

Image credits: Canva.com

4.   このカップはつかえますか。Kono kappu wa tsukaemasuka. – Can you use this cup?

Taking your coffee to go? Did you know Starbucks and other coffee chains will give you a small discount if you bring your own cup? If you, like me, make frequent stops for coffee– using your own cup is a great way to reduce paper or plastic waste and save yourself a little bit of money!

Another useful phrase you can use is:

  • カップをもっています。 Kappu wo motteimasu. – I brought my own cup.

Plastic Waste in Japan – Seeing Changes

In recent years, after the introduction of mandatory plastic bag fees in July 2020, Japan has seen a decrease in plastic bags provided at the checkout. This is a great start, but it can still seem that going to the supermarket means drowning in plastic packaging. We hope these Japanese phrases will help reduce your plastic waste consumption as well as other eco-friendly options such as shopping at bulk stores, farmers markets and eco stores!

Related articles:

The Essential Guide to Zero Waste Shopping in Japan

All retail stores across Japan will be required to charge shoppers for plastic bags

Featured image credits: Unsplash.com