There are a couple of ways to get rid of large garbage - called “sodai gomi” - that the public garbage trucks refuse to take either as burnable or non-burnable trash. Both ways involve what is called “sodai gomi kaishu,” or “big garbage pick up.” One pick up service is public, and the other private.
1) The public sodai gomi kaishu asks us to pay a small fee to the local ward office and then a special truck will come by to pick up your large item - like unwanted furniture - on a certain date. These fees can be paid at local convenience stores in exchange for a decal. The decal identifies the piece of sodai gomi and the trash man will not take anything that doesn’t have a decal on it, indicating that the removal fee has been paid.
2) Private sodai gomi kaishu is more expensive and it seems to focus on unwanted technology or home electrical appliances. If you want to get rid of old television sets, computers, refrigerators, electric fans, etc. there are private dealers who will take them for a fee. I think they are more convenient than the public service because with the public service you have to set a date for your trash pickup. But the private service slowly patrol neighbourhoods every day in small pickup trucks advertising their presence with a taped announcement that plays over a loudspeaker - a message like, “Bring out your unwanted TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, computers, printers!” A few weeks ago I used this service for the first time. Since summer 2012 I have been waiting for the chance to dispose of an old Lexmark printer and very old Compaq laptop computer (with a black-and-white monitor and a Microsoft 97 operating system). I deleted all the data from the laptop years ago in anticipation of disposing of it, but I kept it as a backup to my old Toshiba Satellite laptop, just in case. Then when I bought a new Toshiba Satellite laptop in the summer of 2012 (a newer C850D model) and a new printer (a Canon iP2700) the original Toshiba became my new backup and the old equipment became trash. I waited a long time - months - listening for the taped message telling me that the recycling van was coming down my street. If I am in the apartment when I hear it there remains the challenge of getting outside and downstairs fast enough to flag the truck down. It worked out well a few weeks ago, though, when I was walking home just when I saw the recycle truck turn onto my street. A lone man was driving the truck but the voice of the sing-song message was deceptively and seductively female. I waited outside the apartment building until he pulled even with me and I flagged him down, just like hailing a taxi. The man charged me ¥3,000 to take away my computer and printer, and there was some paperwork to fill out that needed my wife’s attention. She is habitually annoyed even by slight inconvenience, so naturally she complained. As usual, I thought she complained way out of proportion to the scope of the operation.
Businesses that patrol neighbourhoods in small vehicles with taped messages broadcast over a loudspeaker are a rather common sight here. The best example is the “yaki imou” baked sweet potato man who operates in the fall and winter selling delicious sweet potatoes cooked in a wood-burning oven mounted on the bed of his pickup truck. Another is the guy who sells bamboo laundry poles in the summer. His truck broadcasts the chant “Take yaaaaaa saodakeeeeee! Take yaaaaaa saodakeeeeee!” (“Bamboo laundry poles! Bamboo laundry poles!”) Another is the tofu man who usually patrols on a bicycle, tooting a cheap tin horn to announce himself as he goes. There is also a paper recyler - there used to be, anyway - who drives around in a small pickup truck offering free rolls of toilet paper for stacks of old newspaper.