As a Westerner, life in Japan can seem really anal with all the cumbersome details. Sometimes you adapt and become a better person in the process. Sometimes you just suck it in and deal with it. And sometimes you pull a "Wild Gaijin Card" and blow it off.
Now, for the first time in my experience, one of the anal little details has simply gone away.
See the PET plastic bottle in the picture? Japan, as with most industrialized countries, encourages the recycling of PET bottles. And although I am not aware of any, I suppose some countries have you seperate the cap from the bottle for recycling. But only in Japan (as far as I know -- correct me if I'm wrong) is it required to also remove the cap ring.
Do you know how hard it is to remove a cap ring from a PET bottle? There is actually a specialized tool designed especially to cut the ring. Back in the States, recycling a PET bottle means throwing it in the recycle bin instead of the garbage. Here in Japan it means first removing the label (most are perforated specifically to be easily torn off), taking off the cap, using the special tool to remove the ring, then putting the now naked PET bottle in the PET bottle recycling, and putting the plastic label, cap and ring in the plastics recycling. What a hassle -- especially cutting that dang ring off.
Well, apparently the anal bureaucracy has come to realize themselves what a hassle it is and the lack of practicallity. As of April 1st, removing the ring has officially become "optional". So here for the past 4 and a half years, I have been putting up with the frustrating of cutting of each and every PET bottle ring, thinking how much better for the environment it was. And now all of the sudden, all the effort has been made meaningless.
I guess one of the bureaucrats finally threw his or her own "Wild Card".