Cleaning up Japan's coastlines one Sunday at a time
At the end of each session we take a team photo which is quickly shared on social media.
Ever since we opened Ezo Seafoods Summer in Numazu in 2014, we have been acutely aware of the problem of coastal pollution in the local area. In spite of Numazu being at the gateway of Japan's famous and scenic Izu Peninsula, plastic and other rubbish floating in the ocean and washed up on shores was all too obvious. We thought it a shame that a city that prides itself on being a drawcard for ocean lovers could ignore such an obvious issue.
Rather than try and lobby the local council, I made it a mission to do what I could as an individual and hopefully raise awareness. From 2013 to 2020 Keiko and I cleaned up hundreds of bags of rubbish from the shorelines. I used the Ezo Instagram account to keep a record of and promote the activities and used our commercial contractor to dispose of the rubbish.
But as time went by, I noticed that my capacity to collect rubbish was diminishing, yet the volume of rubbish remained obstinately high. My efforts at raising awareness weren't amounting to ....and whereas I used to be able to collect 5 or more 45l bags of rubbish I found that as time went on I was only able to collect a couple before running out of puff.
So this year I decided to ask for help on Instagram hoping that some of my restaurant customers would be willing to help out. Thankfully one of them did. A local housewife and sea craft enthusiast "Martha" joined me for the first weekend clean up in mid July. Martha then created clever and intriguing Instagram adverts in Japanese, which really set the wheels for a volunteer program in motion. She also registered "Team Ezo" as a volunteer organization with the local council.
Since July this year, each weekend Martha has posted an advertisement and each Sunday morning from 8am for one hour a team of volunteers cleans a designated stretch of coastline. The yield is consistently around 20 bags or more of rubbish - way more than I could collect as an individual. After 8 weeks, the group has grown to around 20 individuals including families. We even have a mascot Jack Russell terrier.
"Team Ezo" has focused on the "Goyouteimae" strip of coastline. Its a roughly 1 kilometer stretch that fronts the former Imperial Villa gardens, one of Numazu's tourist drawcards and a popular location for locals, especially elderly people, to take morning or afternoon walks. After three months and hundreds of bags of rubbish later, it is now more or less free of plastic rubbish. Though the issue of micro plastic remains.
The "Team Ezo" cleanups have become a weekend event attracting ordinary people who simply can't ignore the problem of plastic pollution any longer. Encouragingly, some members are bringing their young children along giving them experience volunteering and exposure to the real world local environmental problems. We held a small social event at Ezo Seafoods last weekend after the cleanup and and with the help of team members put on smoothies, Hawaiian style pancakes and fresh fruit.
We have also connected with other volunteer groups in the area and participated in their events.
I'm proud to play a role in "Team Ezo" and thank all members for their enthusiasm.
Ezo Seafoods Summer