As we step into the new year, here are six suggestions for achievable resolutions that can have a positive effect on both you and your surroundings.
Be More Minimalist
While there are many benefits to living in Tokyo, small apartments are not one of them. Instead of constantly rearranging your possessions like a game of Tetris, convert to a more minimalist living arrangement (bound to refresh your headspace, too). Take inspiration from the abundance of Japanese interior style magazines or read up on space saving and life fixing theologies from experts like Marie Kondo and Fumio Sasaki. Organize your wardrobe, commit to decluttering and embrace the ethos of “less is more.”
Reduce Your Plastic Waste
In 2019 China introduced a ban on importing plastic waste, which means the 1.5 million tonnes previously being offloaded from Japan each year now have nowhere to go. How can you help? Switch takeout cups and PET bottles for “keep cups” and flasks, and replace plastic straws with reusable metal or silicon alternatives. Keep eco bags on hand, say no to plastic shoppers, and try to change out your regular purchases for sustainably packaged products. Some brands, like LUSH cosmetics, even offer rewards for customers who recycle empty plastic bottles back in their stores.
PLUS: Read our feature on Sybilla Patrizia’s upcoming documentary PLASTIC LOVE! and more green tips.
Get Active, Japanese Style
Arguably the most frequently broken New Year’s resolution is to lose weight or get in shape. To help make exercising more motivating, mix in some culture and take a class in one of Japan’s traditional sports or performing arts, for example martial arts, matsuri dancing or taiko drumming. If low cost and low impact is more your thing, even practicing radio taisou morning exercises can be a step in the right direction. Tune in at home on your TV or radio, or head to your local park to stretch alongside your neighbors.
Improve Your Cooking Repertoire
While Japan has an abundance of diverse cuisine on offer, few foreigners ever attempt to make authentic dishes at home. Make 2022 the year you master healthy Japanese home cooking. From cute bentos to homemade gyoza, there are dozens of books, video tutorials and cooking schools out there to sharpen your skills. You’ll even find local cooking teachers on skill-sharing apps and in meetup communities who run classes from their own kitchens.
Try Your Hand at Horticulture
Getting in touch with nature can reduce stress, keep you active and improve your mood, regardless of whether it’s cultivating houseplants or organic vegetable farming. Lately, the demand for shimin noen (city farms) and allotment plots has been increasing, so try contacting your local ward office to find out if there is space available or a community project with which you can get involved. Your apartment balcony or rooftop are also potential green spaces where growing plants, flowers, herbs and vegetables will not only have aesthetic and culinary benefits but can also provide a crucially needed habitat for the endangered honeybees who help sustain our agriculture system on a much larger scale.
Visit Recovering Areas
When choosing your vacation spots this year, consider supporting areas that have been hit by natural disasters. The Tohoku region, for example, is still working hard to recover after the devastating 2011 tsunami. Tourists remain less than a tenth of what they were before the disaster, and local industries and agriculture are struggling to sustain business. In order to regenerate communities and restore valuable landmarks, affected areas rely heavily on the support of visitors in order to repair and flourish. Up-to-date online resources make it easy to research and confirm any potential dangers and closures before you visit.
This article was originally published in 2019, and updated in 2021.