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Rise & Win Brewing Co.1/4
Photo: Rise & Win Brewing Co.
Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center2/4
Photo: Transit General Office Inc. Satoshi Matsuo
Hotel Why3/4
Photo: Transit General Office Inc. Satoshi Matsuo
 Cafe Polestar4/4
Photo: Cafe Polestar

Kamikatsu in Japan is transforming into a zero-waste town

Learn about the town's no-waste strategies, stay at its eco-friendly hotel, enjoy sustainable local craft beer, and more

By Tabea Greuner
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Located on the island of Shikoku and surrounded by lush nature, Kamikatsu in Tokushima prefecture is a small town with a big ambition: it plans to reuse and recycle all of its waste by the end of 2020. The first initiatives started in the early ’90s, which paved the way for the laudable zero-waste target, set in 2003. This vision has not only turned the town of roughly 1,500 people into a tourist destination welcoming more than 2,000 visitors every year, it has also made Kamikatsu a local and international model for sustainable living. Here are eight ways how Kamikatsu in Tokushima prefecture is working to become a zero-waste town.

RECOMMENDED: Before you go, read up on the new domestic travel guidelines and social distancing rules in Japan 

Zero-waste initiatives at Kamikatsu

Kamikatsu Zero Waste Academy
Kamikatsu Zero Waste Academy
Photo: NPO Zero Waste Academy

The town’s Zero Waste Academy sets the blueprint

Kamikatsu’s Zero Waste Academy is a non-profit organisation established to promote the town’s 2003 Zero Waste Declaration. It also provides advice on how to modify social systems and habits in order to eliminate waste. For example, the academy encourages manufacturers to consider implementing a repurchase programme for old products, in order to make recycling easier and eliminate illegal waste dumping. It also advocates for local governments to stop burning waste, and dumping it into landfills.

Thanks in part to the Zero Waste Academy’s pioneering methods, other Japanese towns have adopted Kamikatsu’s eco-friendly measures, including Minamata in Kumamoto prefecture, and Ikaruga in Nara prefecture.

Zero Waste Academy, 98 Nakayama, Fukuhara, Kamikatsucho, Katsuura-gun, Tokushima prefecture. 090 2783 3404.

Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center
Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center
Photo: Transit General Office Inc. Satoshi Matsuo

Locals separate their garbage into dozens of categories

Kamikatsu residents are encouraged to separate their garbage into a whopping 45 categories, including one for metal caps, one for diapers and sanitary napkins, and another for mirrors and thermometers, to aid recycling. The town also recommends residents to either avoid using disposable items or purchase products that can be disposed of safely and easily.

Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center, 7-2 Shimohiura, Fukuhara, Kamikatsucho, Katsuura-gun, Tokushima prefecture. 050 3438 8110. 9am-5pm daily.

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Kamikatsu
Kamikatsu
Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

People turn food waste into compost

Town residents used to burn organic rubbish in their gardens, but in the ’90s, the town gave each household a composter to turn food scraps into organic fertiliser.

Kamikatsu Kuru-kuru Shop
Kamikatsu Kuru-kuru Shop
Photo: Transit General Office Inc. Satoshi Matsuo

Second-hand items are free

The Kuru-kuru Shop at Kamikatsu’s waste collection centre is the town’s very own second-hand emporium, providing reusable items for free. Clothes, tableware and household items are all available – and visitors are welcome to take whatever they like. However, only locals are allowed to drop off unwanted items. Every product that goes into and out of the shop is weighed to calculate the amount of waste saved each year by reusing instead of just throwing things away.

Kuru-kuru Shop, 7-2 Shimohiura, Fukuhara, Kamikatsucho, Katsuura-gun, Tokushima prefecture. 9am-5pm daily.

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Kuru-kuru Craft Center
Kuru-kuru Craft Center
Photo: Zero Waste Academy

Waste materials are upcycled into something new

Showing sustainability really is a team effort: two dozen local artisans work to upcycle old kimono, fabrics and koinobori fish-shaped streamers (like the ones that fly on Children’s Day, May 5) into bags, jackets, soft toys and other goods. At the Kuru-kuru Craft Center, you can buy these beautiful products and even create your own. There are workshops to design your own zori sandals, learn crocheting or practise saori hand-weaving.

Kuru-kuru Craft Center, 94-4 Shimohiura, Fukuhara, Kamikatsucho, Katsuura-gun, Tokushima prefecture. 090 7627 4455. 9am-5pm, closed Thu.

Rise & Win Brewing Co.
Rise & Win Brewing Co.
Photo: Rise & Win Brewing Co.

Craft beer brewing made more sustainable

Built from scrap material salvaged from demolished buildings, Kamikatsu’s Rise & Win Brewing Co. is literally a monument to sustainability. Its eye-catching facade, made from discarded windows, is a gorgeous piece of design, too.

Customers can bring their own bottles to fill up with Rise & Win’s Portland-style craft beer, but the brewery also offers reusable growlers for takeout. You can even pair your pint with some barbecue for lunch (reserve ahead).

Moreover, the venue also doubles as a general store, selling Kamikatsu’s speciality product, bancha green tea, as well as nuts, sweet potato chips and other dry goods by weight. Once again, it’s BYO containers, but you can purchase a sustainable shopping bag made from old newspapers.

Rise & Win’s second brewery, Kamikatz Stonewall Hill Craft & Science, follows the same eco-friendly ethos. Set inside an old lumber mill, the brewery produces a refreshingly aromatic craft beer made from discarded yuko citrus peel provided by local farms, who use the fruit juice to produce ponzu sauce and dressings. In return, Stonewall Hill offers its spent grain to local farmers to use as compost.

Rise & Win Brewing Co., 237-2 Hirama, Masaki, Kamikatsucho, Katuura-gun, Tokushima prefecture. 0885 45 0688. 11am-5pm, Sat, Sun & hols 10am-6pm, closed Mon & Tue.

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Cafe Polestar
Cafe Polestar
Photo: Cafe Polestar

Local sustainable café offers a homestay programme for visitors

Cafe Polestar doesn’t just serve delicious dishes made from fresh local produce, it also follows strict sustainability guidelines. The building uses high-quality heat-insulating material and double glazing to save energy. Things that typically come wrapped in layers of plastic, like straws and wet towels, have been replaced with eco-friendly alternatives. Plus, customers who bring their own tumblers get a discount on takeout coffee.

If you’re interested to know what life’s like in a zero-waste town, sign up for Cafe Polestar’s INOW Kamikatsu homestay programme. Spend 14 or 30 days in Kamikatsu and stay in a private room of a traditional Japanese house. During your stay, you can experience the town’s zero-waste philosophy up-close and try a range of activities: study up on traditional farming techniques at local organic farms, practise cooking traditional Japanese cuisine with local and seasonal ingredients, learn about Kamikatsu’s 45 different garbage categories, and more.

Cafe Polestar, 32-1 Hirama, Fukuhara, Kamikatsucho, Katsuura-gun, Tokushima prefecture. 0885 46 0338. cafepolestar.com. 10am-5pm, Sat, Sun & hols 10am-7pm, closed Thu & last Fri of the month.

Hotel Why
Hotel Why
Photo: Transit General Office Inc. Satoshi Matsuo

Holiday sustainably at the town’s zero-waste hotel

The Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center is playfully shaped like a question mark to encourage people to think about their relationship with waste. While the body of the question mark is home to the waste collection centre and the Kuru-kuru Shop, the town’s brand-new zero-waste Hotel Why forms the dot.

Designed by architect Hiroshi Nakamura, who was also responsible for the town’s Rise & Win building, Hotel Why is made from local cedar wood, along with discarded doors and windows – the entire building puts the environment first. Plus, the rooms’ amenities are sourced from eco-conscious brands.

During your stay, immerse yourself in the surrounding nature through exciting activities such as fishing, trekking or kayaking. Be sure to also join a workshop at the Zero Waste Center to learn more about the town’s recycling strategy.

Hotel Why, 7-2 Shimohiura, Fukuhara, Kamikatsucho, Katsuura-gun, Tokushima prefecture. 080 2989 1533. Rooms start at ¥26,400 for two people.

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