Like most countries, Japan is doing its best to promote SDGs throughout the country. However, there is a lot of work before the sustainable goals are met. These are some of the issues that needs to be addressed in Japan.
Japan’s plastic consumption
Plastic bags have become a staple product in Japanese stores and markets. Accordingly, it is used to separate items such as consumables from cleaning supplies. While extremely convenient for shopping, they are unfortunately extremely inconvenient on the environment.
Unfortunately, even wrapping everything in plastic has become so common in the country. For example, if you head to your local Japanese convenience store to purchase a bag of sweets, it will become quite obvious that even those sweets are individually wrapped plastic and are placed into a bigger bag made of the same material.
Plastic bags for sale and for use, but not promoting a form of sustainable consumption. (Image: Shutterstock)
As of 2019, each Japanese person uses around 300-400 plastic bags a year, which on average would equal up to 40 billion bags nationwide. Fortunately, the government has begun to engage in reducing plastic use across the country. Japan has stated that they will increase their efforts, such as utilizing biodegradable material. Furthermore, many businesses and larger corporations throughout the country have already halted giving their customers plastic bags, for example Patagonia.
As environmental awareness becomes more prevalent not only in Japan, but across the world, activities to prevent the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and convenience stores are expected to improve.
Many countries around the world have orphanages for children who have lost their parents, come from broken homes, face abuse, and due to poverty. There are many other reasons that could be added to the list. Unfortunately, that would be an article within itself.
Japan is no exception. There are approximately 39,000 Japanese orphans in Japan. Unfortunately, due to a social stigma against adoption in Japan, most children remain in the system from childhood until adulthood. In Japanese culture, it is very important to have a child of your own, even more so compared to other developed nations. Only a very small majority of orphans find new homes to live and grow.
Japanese orphanages are also well underfunded. Moreover, there were only 602 foster homes in Japan as of 2015. This coupled with a plethora of other issues have made it increasingly difficult to prepare these young individuals for adulthood. Luckily, many orphanages allow not only Japanese citizens, but foreigners to pitch in and volunteer. These activities may include giving English lessons, playing games and going on field trips. Orphaned children in Japan is an issue that must be addressed, especially in a nation where the population is shrinking at an accelerating rate.
Japanese abandoned countryside
The Japanese countryside comprises some of the most beautiful scenery and nature in the world. There are plenty of places to visit that seemingly feel untouched. For example, Wakayama Prefecture holds some of the most gorgeous landscapes, such as its beautiful blue seaside along the southern coast, or the variety of trails long forgotten that were made hundreds of years ago.
However, the Japanese population has been steadily decreasing over the past 20 years. This is also coupled with the fact that the majority of the population is turning its back on countryside living. Reasons for this may be for better job opportunities, a better social life, and even to find love.
Clearing abandoned places is not just clearing the structures, but the items left behind too. (Image: Abandoned warehouse in Nara, Shutterstock)
Unfortunately, this leads to an abandonment of housing materialistic goods that is never properly disposed of. Furthermore, this trash can be found throughout abandoned countryside towns and the surrounding forests. Within abandoned buildings, there may be an abundance of trays, dishes, fridges, and an assortment of other items.
Although Japan’s beauty may be unmatched in many areas, some might say that it is at risk of losing its natural beauty due to its countryside garbage problem, as well as the abandonment of countryside housing. This may seem trivial, but because of the aforementioned population migration, this issue might grow increasingly larger in the future. In many regions, local municipalities are stepping up efforts to indirectly tackle the issue, especially through regional revitalization.
Gender inequality in Japan
Over the past 100 years, gender equality has become an even bigger issue throughout developed nations. However, Japan is still lagging behind most nations when it comes to balancing equality between both men and women.
Although women hold about 45% of the bachelor degrees in Japan, they account for only 18.2% of the workforce while under 3% of those employers being women. According to the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report, Japan ranks 121. Although this is a minor improvement compared to last year (sitting at 125 in 2019), it still ranks among the lowest in all developed nations.
It’s easy to understand that Japan has a long history of being a mostly male dominated society. However, it has been sluggish when keeping up with its other developed nation counterparts. The government and many businesses are now doing their best to tackle the issue, but more efforts need to be taken in order to catch up with other countries.
It is also important to note that gender equality works both ways in Japan. Japan has one of the longest paternity leave laws in the world. Although this may be true, only 5% of fathers actually utilize this system. There is a large stigma most men must confront when taking time off. As of recently, more men are doing their best to take advantage of this system in order to make sure there is an equal allotment of work between couples with children.
(This article was originally published on Zenbird Media.)