Apr 8, 2019

Food Waste in Japan

In general, living an eco-friendly lifestyle in Japan is much easier than doing it in my home country, the US. Recycling unwanted goods, using public transportation, etc. is much easier in Japan. Another huge difference that I have noticed is in regards to how food waste is treated. In my experience, I do not notice as much food waste in Japan. Living in Japan has helped me cut back on my food waste as well.

Food Waste in Japan photo

Here are some of the reasons that there is less food waste in Japan, compared to the US:

1. The shopping carts are smaller in Japan. Because of this, it is much more difficult to over shop. The largest cart available at my local grocery store is about half the size of the grocery carts back home. 

Food Waste in Japan photo

Taken from my latest trip!

2. Even if the grocery stores had larger carts, it would be hard for me, and many other people, to take everything home. In my case, I don’t have a car, so even if I wanted to purchase I lot, I would have no way to take it all home. I can only take what fits in my bicycle basket. I know I am not the only one because I see other people doing the same thing. 

Food Waste in Japan photo

Not my bike, it is much more worn! Haha! Credit: www.pixabay.com 

3. The way that trash is treated is another HUGE factor. Back home, we can take the trash to the dumpster (if you live in an apartment) or at least throw it in the outside trash can (if you live in a house). However, in Japan, there is not the same luxury. That means that if you throw away any food, it is going to stink up the trash can until trash day comes. Plus, if you fill up your small trash can, you must leave it in your apartment until trash day comes. This is a great incentive for people not to waste as much food. (Fun story, I learned the hard way to not store a trash bag on your balcony. The crows will make a mess. That experience was a great incentive for me to be more conscious of all my waste…)

4. Portions at restaurants are smaller. I can actually finish off my meals in Japan when I go out to eat. In America, most people don’t finish their food and end up wasting a lot of it. 

5. Grocery stores are just set up different. Back in America, the grocery stores near me never closed, they are open 24/7 and are always close to fully stocked. Anything else and people would complain. However, the grocery stores in Japan actually close! The supermarket near my house closes at around 8pm. About 2 hours before closing every night, the discount the bento’s, produce, and other goods so that they run out and don’t have to waste as much. Therefore, if you go at night, everything product wise is pretty slim pickings. Since the selections in America can never appear like that, supermarkets throw out much more, in my experience. 

The only complaint that I have is that there is a lack of to go boxes. Some portions at restaurants are still too large for me, and I would like to be able to take it home to prevent waste. (However, this in turn would make styrofoam waste!) Since that is not an option in Japan, I manage to eat all or most of my food, but I still wish that it was an option. 

How does food waste in Japan compare to your home country? Is it something you struggle with? Do you have any advice or tips to reduce food waste? 



Teacher, Traveler, Dancer -
Currently living in Gifu -
I love Japan, dance, cats, food, and fashion!


  • TonetoEdo

    on Apr 8

    The stats on household food waste in Japan are shocking, but I learned that there are campaigns underway to reduce it by half in the next 10 years - http://english.agrinews.co.jp/?p=8546 At my house, I feel awful putting kitchen waste in the garbage. So I do my best to put scraps of veggies go in a freezer bag. When the bag reaches critical mass, I make soup stock. I'd love to compost the rest, but apartment living makes it tricky.

  • ReishiiTravels

    on Apr 9

    @TonetoEdo Making soup stock is a great idea!!! I am going to steal that idea!! :)

  • maynestacy

    on May 15

    If you want a machine to dry out wet compost in your apartment, you can get one. They cost about Y50000; Utsunomiya City gives a huge rebate. I have been using mine for over 10 years. I`ll post about it soon! I visited Yokkaichi City garbage centre. They said a large percentage of garbage contains water, is composed of food waste. They are campaigning now to reduce household food waste. Refrigerators have become too large - easy to lose stuff way at the back! Thank you for posting! I am trying to figure out city-cost and how to follow bloggers I like, like you!

  • ReishiiTravels

    on May 15

    @maynestacy Thank you very much! I am looking forward to seeing your post!