Zen Zen Article

Mike Reid, a member of Life Recycled, wrote a piece about Tsunoshima Trash for a monthly collection of stories called “Zen Zen” which is targeted at JET’s teaching in Japan.

Dumbfounded…apparently one can be found dumb. I can assure you it takes a hellova surprise to render someone dumb and find them staggering about in this nonsensical mind state.

This story begins with a trip to the famed Tsunoshima Island, located on the northwestern tip of Yamaguchi Prefecture. For those of who aren’t familiar, its beaches and breathtaking views are said to be some of the most beautiful in the prefecture, if not Japan.

Exactly one year ago I decided to hit the turquoise waters of the Sea of Japan. “If you want to see the best beach in Yamaguchi Ken, go to Tsunoshima,” one of my more talkative Japanese eikawa students told me. Undertaking the journey was no small feat, for despite the fact it’s a fairly long drive through the Japanese countryside, it was November and a big cold front was approaching, with strong winds to boot. I packed all my snorkeling gear complete with wetsuits into my absurdly small compact Mitsubishi car along with some camera gear and set out.

Let’s skip the pleasantries about the long trek to the island (as I’m sure we can all mutually agree that Japan has a beautiful countryside). More striking was the long swath of Tsunoshima Bridge coming into view, the road halfway down curving around a small island that sticks up out of the water like a turtle’s hump. That island may be an oddity, but it can’t take away from the beauty this island projects. Anyway, I found the lighthouse and disembarked from my clown car ready to hear those howling winds racing off the crystal blue waters onto the rocky beaches. I began the last leg of my journey, ascending the small sandy path leading to the beach.

As the horizon came into view and I approached the waters of Tsunoshima, a tall rusted structure lying on its side grabbed my attention. Childish fantasies took hold: “Maybe it’s part of a ship or some sunken treasure!” (Yes, I was a tad bit idealistic.) This thought made me cheerful as I emerged from the path onto the rocky outcropping of the beach.

But then suddenly, I was in the Matix: the ground was giving way, and the sound effect was like someone crushing plastic under their feet. I looked down and BAMMM. That was it. I was dumbfounded.

If you had been there, what you would have seen next was me pacing in circles, wildly gesturing and arguing with the spaghetti strainer God that rests on my shoulder. I was walking on a blanket of trash, or crap if you will. People’s crap. Bottles, cans, and random trash that I never thought would be on the beach. But it was there. And I’m talking thousands of PET bottles mixed in with a few dozen shoes and the rusted treasure…oh, right. That was a refrigerator. Yes, that tall, rusted beacon was a refrigerator. And it was accompanied by a 32” television.

Yup, that’s what I found on one of Japan’s apparently most beautiful beaches. A dump…

But maybe this is where the story actually begins. Standing in the filth of that spoiled beach, I thought, “Maybe people don’t know about it. They don’t know, right? So I’ve gotta document this.” I ran back to the clown car and readied my camera. I spent the next several hours snapping away, stills upon stills of this senseless atrocity. That action begat a website to share my findings. My findings eventually grew into an art show at Imaichi Gallery in Yamaguchi City. The art show brought more people and attention the project. And now this project is an organization called Life Recycled and receives grant funding from the Japanese government to clean beaches up and down our prefecture.

To my surprise, people are genuinely concerned about this issue and are willing to help. Don’t think you can’t help, too. Changing anything is only possible with the support of others, and I think we can start making a dent in this—and eventually contain it—if we believe it’s possible.

If you want to participate in any way, or if you just want to see the wicked cool stuff we’ve already done, check out Tsunoshimagomi.com.

See ya…for now.
-Mike Reid

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