One of the trickier questions to answer about Japan is whether or not it’s a religious society. On one hand, the ideas of daily prayer, weekly visits to a temple, or consulting religious texts or advisors in times of personal crisis are about as foreign to most Japanese people as playing a game of cricket or eating a plate of grits and gravy.

Still, spiritualism is a big part of life in Japan. Most visitors to a shrine might not spend more than a few seconds reflecting on their place in the universe, but they’ll still toss a coin into the collection box in hope of pleasing the deity said to make its home there. Even as many Japanese people claim to have no religion, most homes include an alter with a place to hang photos of deceased relatives and offer incense.

The vagaries of theology in Japan are now being turned to in an effort to curb a growing problem in many neighborhoods, as people are putting up small versions of the torii gates that mark Shinto shrines to prevent people from illegally dumping waste, whether produced by their lifestyles or bodies.

As an island nation, real estate is always at a premium in Japan. Without the space for a network of large trash dumps, garbage has to be carefully sorted into burnable and recyclable varieties, with the latter again being subdivided into several categories.

Making things even less convenient, there are extra fees and procedures required for hauling off items that are too big to fit in a normal garbage bag or don’t fall under one of the categories handled through basic trash service. So while Japan may be an extremely clean and courteous country overall, there are always going to be individuals tempted to just dump their trash on the side of the road if they don’t think anyone’s looking.

This is, obviously, something that doesn’t please the person who owns the house or field the garbage is getting dumped in front of. The most direct solution would be to vigilantly stand guard, but most of us have school, jobs, social engagements, and other mortal concerns to attend to. So some people have decided on the next best thing by reminding would-be litterers that even if there aren’t any people watching, one of Japan’s dozens of diligent divinities of the Shinto religion sees the transgression.

Shrines generally have a large torii at their entrance which worshippers pass under when entering the premises. These anti-littering versions, though, are much smaller in scale, measuring a meter (3.3 feet) or so in height. Whether due to religious fervor, fear of divine wrath, or just the surprise at seeing the torii in an unexpected place making litterbugs stop what they’re doing and reconsider their actions, word of mouth claims that these religious adornments are leading to less unlawful garbage.

Some believe that even just a drawing of a torii can have an effect, such as on a placard placed in a field.

Torii are also being used to combat a surprisingly frequent occurrence in Japan: public urination. This isn’t even something that’s limited to rural areas, as even in major Japanese city centers and their attached suburban communities, it’s not terribly uncommon to stumble across an inebriated salaryman marking his territory. Fed up with this, some residents are drawing or attaching torii to their exterior walls.

“You can’t just throw trash in front of the gods,” explains one Internet commentator, and by extension, it’s not cool to pee on their homes, either.

Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Wikipedia