Before you read
a. What kinds of things do you throw away from your home as trash?
b. Do people pick up goods from the pile of trash for their personal use in Nepal?
If yes, what do they usually pick up?
c. Is it good to use such goods thrown by others? Why?
Read the following text about the waste management system in Japan and do the given tasks.
On sodaigomi nights in Japan, we learn what kind of people we are. Sodaigomi, which
rhymes with “oh my homey,” means “bulky garbage.” It’s sometimes used colloquially
to describe husbands who have retired from the salaryman life and now spend their
time around the house. That sodaigomi problem may be a strain on Japanese families,
but sodaigomi in its literal sense is a more serious trial for my family.
Three nights a week, the residents of our neighborhood in Yokohama deposit their
household trash at specified areas on the street corners. It’s wrapped in neat bundles, it
looks like gifts, and it disappears at dawn. For two or three nights near the end of each
month, they bring out the sodaigomi. These are articles no longer wanted around the
house and too big for normal trash collection. Big garbage can really be big: I’ve seen
sofas, refrigerators, bookcases, chairs, bed frames, vacuum cleaners, and an acetylene
welding tank, a motorcycle, and numerous television sets.
Sodaigomi exists for two reasons. One is the small size of the typical Japanese house,
with its lack of attic, cellar, garage, or spare room. When a new TV comes in, the old
one must go out. (This also applies to cars. To buy a new one, you have to prove to the
government that you have a place to park it, which for most people means getting rid of
the old car. I can’t figure out what happens to the old cars: they’re certainly not on
the roads, and so far I haven’t seen one in a sodaigomi pile.)
The other reason is the Japanese desire for freshness and purity. No one here really
enjoys using something that has passed through on other people’s hands. My Japanese
friends seem to feel about buying a second hand radio, lamp, or table the way I’d feel
about buying someone else’s socks. There is a “recycle shop” in our neighborhood
that sells used clothes and toys at cut rates. Presumably someone must buy there, since
in business, but usually shoppers seem to scoot by in embarrassment, as if it were
a Frederick’s of Hollywood shop. Whenever I’m listening to the Far East Network,
the U.S. military’s radio station, and hear at a garage sale, I realize that the American
soldiers are unusual not just because they have garages but also because they can sell
their old possession rather than throw them out.
Our first sodaigomi night came shortly after we moved into our current house. It cut
into our hearts in a way none of our neighbors could own. For one thing, we had
no furniture, silverware, or other whole belongings, because everything except the
clothes in our suite was making a five-week sea journey up from our last house, in
Malaysia. We had also just come from a culture with a wholly different approach to
used goods. Malaysia is a land of tropical abundance, but no one throws anything
away. Just before leaving we had auctioned off every spare item in the house, from
frying pans and mosquito nets to half-used rolls of Scotch tape. Several customers were
enthusiastically bidding for the shirts my sons had on. It was painful to go from that
world to one in which we didn’t have any household goods, couldn’t bring ourselves to
buy the overpriced new ones in the store – and then saw heaps of clean, new-looking
merchandise just sitting on the street.
You can see where I am leading. It was not in us to resist. We had quickly tired of eating,
sitting, relaxing, studying, and performing all other indoor activities on the floor, without tables
or chairs, while waiting for our ship to come in. “Set the floor, please, boys,” my wife would call
at dinner time. I lay sprawled on my stomach in front of my computer keyboard, attempting to
type while resting my weight on my elbows, trying to cheer myself with mental images of Abe
Lincoln sprawled before the fire as a boy. Then one evening, as we trudged home at twilight
from the train station, we saw two replenished-looking sodaigomi piles. In one, was a perfectly
nice plastic lawn chair and in the other, an ordinary low Japanese tea table. You couldn’t use both
of these at the same time – if you sat in the lawn chair, you’d be too high to reach down to the
table comfortably. But if we had the table, we could at least eat without bending over to reach
plates, of food on the floor, which made me feel like a husky eating its chow.
We were in a crowd, of course, when we first saw the sodaigomi. We were too confused
and timid to grab anything from the pile just then. But that night I sat in our kitchen,
peering through our window toward the sodaigomi at the end of the street. The door to ajuku,
or cram school, was near the piles. The last group of teenage students left
there around eleven. After midnight the trains from Tokyo become much less frequent:
I could depend on intervals of fifteen or twenty minutes between clumps of salarymen
teetering drunkenly from the station toward home. The street looked bare at 12:30, so
I made my move. The next morning we placed our breakfast dishes on our table, and I
read the morning paper while luxuriating in my full-length lawn chair.
It was two more days before the sodaigomi collectors came. In those two nights, we laid in
as many provisions as we decently could. A shiny new bell for one son’s bicycle, a small
but attractive wooden cupboard, a complete set of wrenches and screwdrivers in a metal
toolbox, a Naugahyde-covered barstool, a lacquer serving tray. If I didn’t already know
English I would probably have taken the four large boxes containing dozen tape cassettes
from the Advanced Conversational English series. My son walked in the door one day, said
“Guess what?” and presented black-and-white TV. In self-defense, I should point out that
everything except a few rusty wrenches looked perfectly clean, whole, and serviceable. In
any other culture you’d never believe these things were being thrown out.
That was last summer; we’ve learned a lot since then. We realize that sodaigomi is
part of a larger cycle, in which it’s important to give as well as receive. So, when our
household shipment arrived, we gave the lawn chair back to the pile- and later we
bought a new color TV and gave back the black-and-white one. We’ve learned that
we’re not alone in our secret practice. Last month, I met an American writer who lives
on the outskirts of Tokyo. I admired the leather notebook he was carrying and asked
him where he got it. “You’ll never believe this …,” he said. We’ve learned that some
Japanese, too, overcome their squeamishness about secondhand material. When I’m up
late at night, I sometimes catch a glimpse of the sodaigomi area – a more disinterested
glimpse, now that our house is furnished – and see a van cruising back and forth,
checking it out. In the morning, the choicest items are gone.
And I’ve learned where I’ll draw the line. As the only foreigners in our neighborhood,
we are laughably conspicuous. People must know that we’re skimming the sodaigomi,
but if we do our best to be discreet about it, operating in the dead of night, everyone
can pretend not to notice and we bring no shame upon our kind. Late one night, on the
way home from the train station, I saw two handsome wooden bookcases sitting by a
lamppost. I thought of the books piled on our floor, I looked around me quickly, and I
happily picked up one bookcase with both arms.
It was fifteen minutes before I could get back for the other – only to find that it wasn’t
there. Twenty yards down the street I saw a hunch shuffling figure. An old wino in a
filthy overcoat, with a crippled left leg, was laboriously dragging the bookcase away
toward his lair. Within seconds, I was heading home again, looking as if I’d never
dreamt of wrest … a bum for a bookcase. But, I know what first flashed through my
mind when I saw my treasure disappear: “I can take this guy!”
– James Fallows
Human Culture Notes Grade 12
Working with words
A. Complete the given sentences with the suitable words from the box.
wrapped embarrassment abundance ordinary
teetering outskirts dragging
a. The annual report has caused acute …………………… to the government.
b. Ellen has worn high-heels. She is ……………………
c. Look! The poor horse is ……………………………. a heavy load.
d. As they approached the …………………….. of the city, Ella’s mood
e. The parcel was ………………………. in plain brown paper. It still looks
f. Fruits and vegetables grow in ………………………. in the Terai region.
g. They can abstract precious medicines from …………………… substances.
B. Word formation is a process in which new words are formed from base or
root words by adding prefixes or suffixes. A root word can be a verb, noun,
adjective or an adverb. See the following examples.
Root word Suffix New word
govern (v.) -ment government (n.)
perfect (adj.) -ion perfection (n.)
service (v.) -able serviceable (adj.)
beauty (n.) -full beautiful (adj.)
warm (adj.) -ly warmly (adv.)
D. Look for the following words related to waste management in an English
dictionary. Make sentences of your own using them.
sewage, sludge, organic waste, inorganic waste, methane, waste reduction,
monofil, market waste, incineration, hazardous waste
Answer the following questions.
a. How does the author describe the Japanese waste management system?
b. What are the two reasons behind the existence of sodaigomi in Japanese
c. What, according to the author, do the Japanese feel at the thought of buying
second hand items?
d. How is Malaysian culture different from Japanese culture concerning the
e. Why did the author feel awkward at the sodaigomi pile?
f. How many articles did the author bring to his house one after another?
g. Why do most people try to find things in trash pile ‘in the dead of the
h. How did the author’s family assimilate Japanese culture in using consumer
a. If you happen to be in Japan someday, will you collect articles from sodaigomi?
Why or why not?
b. There are some second hand shops in Nepal, too. But, people are not much
interested in them. What practice would be suitable in managing second hand
items in Nepal?
A. Write a paragraph elaborating the idea of 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) in
B. Garbage management is a big problem in most of the cities in Nepal. Write a
letter to the editor to be published in the daily newspaper suggesting the ways of
‘Solving Garbage Problems.’
Adjectives and adverbs
A. Observe the following examples carefully.
a. The trash is wrapped in neat bundles.
b. We realize that sodaigomi is a part of larger cycle.
c. In the morning, the choicest items are gone.
d. I looked around me quickly, and I happily picked up one bookcase with
B. Use the words from the brackets to complete the sentences.
a. This house is very small. I want to buy a ……………….. one. (much / big)
b. I liked the magic show. It was ………… than I’d expected. (far / exciting)
c. It was very cold yesterday. It’s …………… today. (a bit / warm)
d. The warmer the weather the ………………. I feel. (good)
e. An average American earns ……………….. than an average Nepali.
(considerably / high)
f. Health care in Nepal is not as ……………… as it is in the US. (expensive)
g. I think the problem is ………………… than it seems. (far / complicated)
h. You are driving very fast. Would you please drive …………? (a bit/ slowly)
i. Your handwriting is not legible. Can you write ……………? (a bit/ neat)
C. Rewrite the following sentences with the sentence beginnings given below.
a. Kabir is less intelligent than he pretends. He is not as ………………..
b. I am busy today but I was busier yesterday. I’m not ………………
c. Hari has lived in Kathmandu for 10 years but Bikram for 20 years. Bikram has…….
d. I used to study 12 hours a day but nowadays I study only 5 hours a day. I don’t ……………
e. It’s a very good room in our hotel. In fact, it’s the …………………
f. He earns 30 thousand rupees a month but spends 40 thousand. He spends…………..
g. There is no other mountain higher than Mt. Everest in the world. Mt. Everest is the ……………..
h. The place was nearer than I thought. It was not as ………………..
i. Bharat can play better than Mohan. Mohan can’t ………………..
Making comparision and contrast
A. Complete the second sentences in each pair orally so that it has the same
meaning as the first sentence. Use the word given in the brackets.
a. Nitesh thought that the party would be more exciting than it turned out to be.
The party …………………. as Nitesh had thought it would be. (not)
b. Nimesh doesn’t speak English nearly as well now as he used to.
Nimesh used to …………….. he does now. (much)
c. There is not much difference between your essay and mine.
Your essay is …………. mine. (very)
d. We have similar opinions on global warming.
Our opinions on climate change ……… common. (quite)
e. The journals’ titles are absolutely identical.
The journals ……………… titles. (exactly)
f. Our ideas on how to change the school have absolutely nothing in common.
We ………….. on how to change the school. (different)
g. Compared to his holiday, mine was luxurious.
My holiday …………….. his was. (than)
B. Ask your partner about the similarities and differences between things. You
can use the given clues.
a. Is …. (exactly) the same as ….?/Are …. and … (really) identical?
b. Is ….. similar to …. ?
c. What’s the difference between …. and …. ?
d. How similar are …. and … ?
e. How different are …. and …. ?
C. Work in pairs. Take turns to compare and contrast two things in the
a. What are the differences between letters and emails?
b. What are the differences between living in the city and in the countryside?
c. How are the houses today different from the ones in the past?
d. What changes have you seen in the past few years in your town/village?
e. Do young and old people like listening to the same kind of radio programmes?
Find someone, your relative, friend, or acquaintance who has been to a second-hand
shop. Ask him/her about the experience of visiting the second-hand shop and prepare
a report in about one hundred words.