Getting rid of stuff in Japan

sodai gomi
In my Sept. 17 column in the Japan Times, I explained why it’s both illegal and unkind to help yourself to something that’s been put out for 粗大ゴミ sodai gomi (over-size trash) collection. Bummer, right? I mean, Japanese throw out the nicest things!

But on the assumption that most readers don’t need help accumulating, this post focuses on how to unload your stuff without paying a fortune. I’d be glad if readers would share your own suggestions in the “comments” section below.

The most obvious way is dump your drek is to have your municipality haul it away. But as I explained in my column, this requires advance preparation and some phone work in Japanese. You also have to pay for it. There’s a reasonably good explanation of the process here, although unfortunately it’s Tokyo specific. (If someone’s got a better link, please let me know.) If you’ve only got a few items to toss, municipal collection may end up being the easiest of your not so easy-options. But if you’ve got a lot of stuff, buying all those 粗大ゴミ処理件 sodai gomi shoriken (oversized garbage payment coupons) really adds up.


You could also have a private trash collector take it all way. One way is to wave down a 廃品回収 haihin kaishū gyōsha, those guys who drive slowly through neighborhoods in little white trucks blaring recorded calls for unneeded items over loudspeakers. They say they’ll take things away for free, but in my experience they charge for certain items. Some of this is by regulation, so don’t take it personally.

You can also contact a company and arrange for a pickup. If you read Japanese, the website Gomihikaku introduces companies with price comparisons for all of Japan. I’ve had good luck with a company called Recycle Boy, which picks up in Tokyo and Yokohama. In theory they will pay you for things in good condition but the best offer I’ve gotten out of them is to haul my stuff away for free. (Either I’m a lousy negotiator or my stuff ain’t up to snuff.) Recycle Boy has English-speaking staff and a website in English. They operate half a dozen second-hand stores so there’s a good chance your stuff will end up being used again rather than filling up a landfill.


My last suggestion for now is to use English-language websites to find people who want your stuff. Craigslist offers free classifieds for selling and giveaways, with separate sites for Tokyo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Osaka, Nagoya, Sendai, Sapporo and Okinawa. Freecycle also has a Japan-specific site in English. I’ve given away a lot of computer stuff this way, which is otherwise even harder to dispose of. In fact, disposing of computer parts (and batteries) deserves a whole ‘nuther post.

This entry was posted in Life in Japan, What the Heck is That? and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Getting rid of stuff in Japan

  1. Kathleen Bunce says:

    I frequently use Freecycle, but it’s good to know about the other options.

  2. Allan Murphy says:

    Hi Alice, we regularly use The Salvation Army / Kyuseigun. They pick up items at your door. There is a monthly schedule that covers each Ward. They have a “recycle store” in Koenji.

  3. Alice says:

    Ah, yes. We bought things for our first apartment in Koenji. The Salvation Army in Tokyo doesn’t seem to have an English webpapge but if you can speak Japanese the telephone line for donations of things is 03-5860-2992 (new number). They accept calls 9-4 on Mon, Tues, Thurs and Friday. It says the lines may be crowded so if callers can’t through, so please call again.

  4. Alice says:

    Suggestion received by email:

    Dear Alice,
    I have been in Japan more than 30 years but I still learn things from your columns. Keep it up!
    Regarding getting rid of stuff, we have recently been through the downsizing from hell, moving from a house we had rented for 20+ years with three children (now grown) into a much smaller place. In the course of doing that I discovered “freestuffjapan”

    I thought no one would want my complete set of encyclopedias, but I had two takers within minutes. Very helpful group.

    Best wishes,
    A..Kawagoe, Saitama

  5. Allan Murphy says:

    On the topic of gomi and recycling, one of my favorite things about Japan is the “help yourself” boxes that appear from time to time in front of homes. Apparently there’s been a big clean up due to moving etc and there are a number of unnecessary items which are too good to throw out but not good enough for a flea market – which many Japanese think is the same as a “free market” :-) Typically there are plates, sake cups, souvenir knick knacks, toys, books, accessories, etc. I always enjoy browsing and sometimes find a nice item. Some thoughtful donors even provide bags. This suits the Japanese psyche: helping neighbors / strangers without personal contact.

  6. This is a great post with very helpful comments! :) I never know what to do with stuff and it all just ends up piling up.

  7. PJ says:

    When our children outgrew furniture items, I would sometimes take my jigsaw to a wooden table, a bookshelf, or even a chest of drawers, cutting the item into wooden planks of 30cm or shorter and tying the planks into tidy little bundles, rather than dealing with reserving the pick-up and buying the tickets. Of course I removed handles, screws, bolts, etc. This is both effective and fun, at least for people who like using their jigsaws.
    However, I recently read in the Setagaya-ku rules for non-burnable items that you can’t put out any non-burnable item that was ORIGINALLY bigger than 30cm in any dimension — even if you have disassembled it into smaller pieces! For example, you can’t put out a 50cm wide DVD player, even if you’ve unscrewed it into all its component parts and folded the sheet metal chassis and box sides neatly in half to 25cm. I have to admit I thought that was a bit excessive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s