Saturday, February 6, 2010

Free Umbrella Rental in Japan?

We all know what it’s like to get caught out in the rain when you are sightseeing. Japan is lucky to be a place with convenience stores on almost every street corner where you can always pick up a cheap, see-through plastic umbrella. Why don't they sell these here? I think those transparent Japanese umbrellas are so sweet! However, these break easily and can be often be found discarded in trash cans, or worse, left by a road. Read: Bad for the environment!

Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture, well-known for its heavy snow and rainfall, attracts large amounts of domestic and international tourists for its Kyoto-like historical districts and gardens. Since mid-December last year it has been working to keep its visitors dry in an eco way through the “Minna no eRe:Kasa” scheme (みんなのeRe:傘 or “Everyone’s Re-use Umbrella”).

Serving both as a convenient service for people caught in sudden rain without protection — and also as a way to reduce thrown-away broken convenience store umbrellas — the project has placed thirty re-used umbrellas each at twenty-one key spots in the center of the city, including the big JR station, sightseeing areas and shopping malls. The City held an inauguration event featuring the singer Eri Takenaka (above) accepting gifts of unneeded umbrellas from local residents, which would then be donated for the scheme.

No registration process is required and usage of the umbrellas is totally free. The City merely asks that borrowers return the umbrella, preferably to the same rental station or at least to another official one.

However, the Daily Yomiuri reported last month that already some one thousand of the fifteen hundred umbrellas are missing, and that the City will have to replace them. This raises the question of how to maintain the umbrella stock at the stations. One solution would be to make special umbrellas in a distinct design, so that people would be too shamed to steal one — or would be sure to return it if they accidentally took it home. However, making a new set of durable, unique umbrellas would definitely be an expensive and highly non-eco process! (Japan Trends)

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