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Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012
Some cities starting to crack down on homes overflowing with junk
By MIZUHO AOKI
Municipalities are taking steps to clean up overflowing junk on private property, especially in cases where the garbage has been bothering neighbors for years.
Adachi Ward in Tokyo enacted an ordinance Wednesday to address these "gomi yashiki" (trash houses).
The ordinance gives the ward the right to ask the residents of trash houses to remove the garbage. If the request goes unheeded, the ward can issue an order to get rid of the junk with the approval of a third-party committee.
If the order is ignored, the local government can publicize the transgressor's name and address — and haul away the junk regardless of property rights.
The rule takes effect Jan. 1.
Yuji Shimada, an official at Adachi Ward in charge of issues related with trash houses, said due to private property laws, it has been difficult for the ward to remove mountains of junk even when they are emitting foul odors and spawning pests.
With the new ordinance, he said, ward officials will have the power to step in and get something done.
"It has been difficult to ask residents to remove the garbage. . . . If the residents say it's their private property and they have the freedom to leave it as it is, then we haven't been able to do anything other than just plead with them," Shimada told The Japan Times on Friday.
Under the ordinance, the ward will cover up to ¥1 million of the cleanup cost if residents can't afford it, Shimada said.
Although Ota and Arakawa wards in Tokyo have similar ordinances to solve the trash house issues, Adachi's is the first to include supportive measures for the residents, according to the ward office.
A total of 31 trash houses were confirmed in Adachi by the ward as of Thursday. Shimada said it has received 31 complaints from residents since April about odors and increases in pests caused by garbage. Many also said they fear possible fires, he added.
Shimada said many trash-house residents are elderly people living alone or together with another senior citizen.
Some experts say the problem is related to a deeper social malaise stemming from the aging society. They say these elderly people collect garbage simply because they don't want to face up to their life in solitude.
"Considering the fact that the number of such senior residents will increase in the years to come, (trash houses) may increase," Shimada said. "Elderly people's physical strength is weak and some have difficulties cleaning up trash. We want to study such cases and take preventive measures."
Meanwhile, the city of Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, plans to establish an ordinance that would empower the city to order trash house residents to clean away their junk, Mayor Fumio Saito announced Thursday. Details of the ordinance have yet to be decided, a Nikko official said.
According to a land ministry survey in 2009, trash houses were confirmed in 250 municipalities across Japan.