One of the things which make an impression on many first-time visitors to Tokyo, Osaka or other major Japanese cities is how generally clean and litter-free the streets are. However, that doesn't mean that Japan doesn't have a littering problem. It was only after Mount Fuji became a Cultural World Heritage Site that the glaring litter problem on the mountain was tackled. Many Japanese beaches are littered with trash and require a volunteer crew to periodically clean them up.

The countryside is no exception. Often to the dismay of rural landowners, farmers, and agricultural workers, illegal trash dumping (which is the Japanese term for "littering") is a recurring headache. But it's not often that we get to hear those involved in farming and agriculture express their frustration with the problem in their own voice.

On September 20th, a Twitter user by the name Noumin (meaning "farmer"), who mainly works harvesting rice fields, posted this image in a Tweet:

Reproduced with permission from Noumin 農民 (@noumin_1994)

"They're probably eating rice as if nothing happened."

With his trusty Yanmar harvester combine in the background, you can see him holding items of trash obviously discarded by someone who treated the field as their personal trash disposal area.

Reproduced with permission from Noumin 農民 (@noumin_1994)

One carton of soy milk and a chocolate ice cream bar wrapper...

Since most Japanese people eat rice on a regular basis as a staple food every day, these litterers were probably enjoying the fruits of a rice farmer's labor without even realizing that they had desecrated one of the potential sources of their food through their callous behavior.

Noumin's Tweet quickly went viral, picking up 84,000 likes and 20,000 retweets at the time of writing, and also inspiring others in the farming community to share their own stories. Some of the comments included:

  • "Empty cans of beer and chuhai thrown out of a car window got stuck in the blade of my harvester combine, requiring a two-day wait for a repair. I bear a grudge to my very bones to this day."
  • "People throw out cans of alcohol in my field too. There are a lot of highball cans!"
  • "We're rice farmers in my family too and there's just no stopping it. We'll see convenience store bags full of trash, even people throwing away plastic bottles with their own bodily wastes in it..."
  • "The more traffic comes through, the more litter piles up..."

Noumin was pleased to see his Tweet got some traction, so the following day he tweeted:

"Thanks for all the likes and comments. I'm still at work but I'll definitely look through them. If any litterers out there notice my Tweet and if just one of them is persuaded to stop littering, I'd be happy. Since it went viral, I suppose I should do some self-promotion. This is rice."

Reproduced with permission from Noumin 農民 (@noumin_1994)

"I'm surprised at the impact my Tweet had the other day. I'm glad if I was able to convey to even the smallest degree how people working in agriculture are bothered by littering. Thank you very much. Today, the straw is fully dry so we'll be busy collecting it. I'd like to finish before the dewfall!"

As many foreign visitors will surely agree, Japan is known for its delicious rice, so it's both sad and infuriating to see how some people can show so little respect for it. It's only through the hard work of people like Noumin that rice can be enjoyed, so let's hope that would-be litterers will think twice before polluting the countryside.

By - Ben K.