A ‘touch’ of the Far East for Bath?

On the subject of city litter, refuse, the gulls issue and Bath’s general shabby appearance, Bath Newseum regular Chris Gornall has a suggestion to make – based on his travels to a Far Eastern country that seems to have found a way of sorting things out.

He writes: ‘Of course they are not perfect, but the Japanese have solved many social problems with which we still wrestle.  Certainly, they have a deep and different inner culture, but they are also super modern.

As we try to solve our problems, we should remember that we have no need to find those immense sums to protect against the worst consequences of hurricanes and earthquakes. The threat is ever present for the Japanese.

Clean streets in spite of crowds. Photo. Chris Gornall

Deep in their culture is Shinto and Buddhism. Perhaps being more attuned to cherishing nature flows from this, and respecting and caring for others follows naturally.

My suggestion is that Bath City should  fund the sending to Japan a knowledgable and passionate individual; knowledgeable about some of Bath’s intractable problems. I suspect that there are solutions to be found that we could adapt or adopt in our precious city.

No litter in spite of food stalls. Photo: Chris Gornall

As very ordinary tourists, we travelled widely through cities and villages, favourite tourist spots and the country side. Except for in one small area in woodland, no larger than a double bed, we never saw a scrap of litter anywhere at any time, not even a cigarette butt, and that was during three weeks.

Public water fountains. Photo: Chris Gornall

Almost without exception, litter bins are not provided anywhere, either in parks, streets, railway stations or trains.  You are simply expected to take yours home.  We never saw just how rubbish is collected from commercial premises, but we never saw it put in bags on the streets.

Eating or drinking on the go, is hardly done, but corners are provided in cities here and there, for just that; as indeed are ‘smoking stations’.

Flowers – even where no space. P{photo: Chris Gornall.

There is no domestic door to door collection of rubbish, but each home is expected to take its rubbish to a convenient communal collection point, which is cleared two or three times per week. The frail or disabled are expected to be helped by their friends or neighbours.

Obviously, they save vast sums by not doing door to door collections, and we all know the trail of litter in the streets that follows from these collections.

Free public toilet. Photo: Belinda Gornall

Public toilets of the highest standard are to be found everywhere, and are kept spotless. Hand driers are seldom provided; most Japanese carry a small personal hand towel.  Men’s urinals extend down to the ground, to collect the final drop!

Gents urinal on train. Photo: Chris Gornall

The Japanese are dog lovers, but the place for them is on leads in a park, never in the street, unless carried.

We never saw begging, although we did see very small tented communities in cities. It hardly needs to be added that we never saw the sad statement of cardboard sheets and bedding in doorways which we tolerate endlessly in Bath.

Shop owners put out little flower displays in corners and on pavements wherever they can, and what a charming difference that makes.

I believe that we can improve.’


  1. I’m sure there’s a lot of value in what Mr Gornall writes, but sending one person to Bath is unlikely by itself to assist Bath, since many of its problems stem from the type of tourism – day-trippers, hen parties, the so-called night time economy etc., – the council has been content with, and the plethora of fast-food outlets that feed the sea gulls and help to fill the streets with trash.

  2. Like so much it is very simple really. But needs to taught in schools and by parents, it’s a mind set thing & so many just don’t have it, unfortunately! So much of our society is rely on others, when we should do more to help others.

  3. I don’t think you need to have Shinto and Buddhism to care for nature, our environment and others. Canada seems to manage it, and we were once better at it in this country too. As someone who has travelled in Japan I think it’s also fair to mention that the Japanese are also very keen on public dispensing machines, many of which are chiilled – very convenient, but not environmentally friendly!

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