One of the first things I noticed when I began shopping in Japan was the sheer number of plastic bags being used! Over packaging is, unfortunately, the norm here, and for many Japan’s plastic-heavy service industry 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.
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 product, and meticulously train their employees to provide the best service possible for their customers. For many people, the best service means not even having to think to ask for any changes to be made to packaging.
Thankfully, the Japanese government has been working hard to pass new nationwide legislation to charge a small service fee for plastic bags– however, progress is slow moving. Some retailers have already taken it upon themselves to encourage their customers to be more eco-friendly in their shopping, and charging for plastic bags, or providing reusable bags to customers.
But in the meantime, while shopping it’s important to be vigilant and ask for fewer bags, or to use your own bag, as soon as the check-out process begins. Some helpful phrases to remember are:
- 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
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!
Want to put a few small items into your purse or backpack? Use the phrase:
ここにいれてください Koko ni irete kudasai. – Please put it in here.
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 less things for you to juggle as you walk as well.
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.