I get the question nearly every time a pal visits me here: "Hey! I heard people in Japan put out brand-new TVs and stereos out with their trash! What day is that...?" I almost hate to dispel the visions of free Blu-ray players dancing in their heads.
In spite of what you may have read about garbage day in Japan ("How to Get Free Electronic Goods in Japan," BoingBoing, February 17th), the streets of Tokyo are not lined with mint-condition electronic gear ripe for the taking. The binge-and-purge cycle of constantly upgrading one's appliances is a relic of the "bubble era." It went out of style in the mid-90s, shortly after Japan went into recession. These days, people tend to make the most of what they have. Nobody dumps electronics on the street to impress the neighbors. Quite the opposite. They do it because they're too lazy and cheap to pay for it to get hauled away. Anything with actual value gets sold to a local recycling shop. The stuff left sitting on the curb is inevitably junk.
This being Japan, if you have a societal problem, you have super-kawaii signs reminding people not to do it. The pictures above, taken within walking distance of my home, represent just a tiny fraction of the "no dumping" signs posted throughout the country. It's a major problem here.