Wednesday, June 4, 2014


This past Tuesday, Chikusa High School and Junior High School partook in a "beautification" project around various parts of Chikusa town. The general end goal was to clean up some of the areas that were prone to gathering trash, whether due to gravity or because it's a place that attracts litterers. I went up with the 2nd years to the Shibiki Pass, an area well-up a winding road from the center of town that leads to a neighboring village and looks down into a huge valley. The vista is amazing and lots of people go up to see it, but they tend to leave their trash on the side of the road before heading back down. I figured we'd be walking around with bags and sticks, picking up loose papers and wrappers in the gutters.

In reality, the project was much more involved than I had originally imagined. The road that leads up to Shibiki Pass winds around the side of a very steep mountain. The road is also fairly old, so it isn't very wide. Thus, directly off the road is a sharp drop-off that slides into the valley. There are plenty of guardrails and wire fences along the side, but on Tuesday I discovered there were human-sized holes people can wiggle through to climb downwards. Our students squeezed through them to make their way into the valley.

At first, I thought it was tremendously ironic that everyone was making their way through the fences while they neglected to pick up the cigarette butts and plastic bottles that were literally on the side of the road. This was the more visible trash after all, right? So I decided to forgo the descent and took up street duty. I soon found out, however, why some of our teachers were leading kids into the valley.

After about 45 minutes, I came back to find that they had retrieved quite a number of large car parts—a few tires, a big muffler, and part of a seat with some springs still attached. They had also picked up what appeared to be giant gears from some old machine and a huge cylinder that might have been the inside of a propane tank. All very intriguing until I saw them go back down.

The two centerpieces took all of their collective effort to pull up. One was an old rice winnowing machine, probably 50 years old, that was entirely covered in rust. The other was a mid-size refrigerator that had no door, but still had its shelf on the inside. The former was small enough that we could pull it underneath the guard rail and the wire fencing, but the fridge was too big, so we had to use a small crane to get it out.

I've done some trash picking in the past, but this was beyond anything I've ever experienced. Their dedication to keeping their environment clean was awe-inspiring, to say the least!

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