Monday, June 8, 2009

PET Bottles Turned Anti-pet Bottles

Yokohama - Walk down any street here and you are sure to notice them. Old plastic beverage containers filled with water are just about everywhere in sight. Let the eye wander and you’ll find them lined up along the tops of walls, scattered about postage stamp sized gardens, or standing sentry around potted plants. Known to locals as PET bottles (PET is short for Polyethylene terephthalate, the type of plastic used to make most beverage bottles), these glistening, sun pierced crystal-like chambers are often among the first exotic objects to meet the eyes of visitors to this far eastern land. Dividing light into a palette of colors splashed across the concrete foot path, these oversized gems dotting the modern Japanese urban landscape are in a word, “unsightly.” They are another one of those “mysteries of the Orient” that have prompted more than one traveler to ask: “What’s with all the bottles?”

In her Japan Times’ “What the heck is it?” column , Alice Gordenker lifts the shroud of mystery surrounding the ubiquitous bottles. Apparently they are believed to ward off cats. Now, I was under the impression that the natives of Japan had a fondness for cats (witness the Hello Kitty phenomenon) but apparently the love affair has gone to the dogs. I just can’t decide which is more visually disturbing, the sight of a few feline calling cards left behind or old soda pop bottles strewn all over the place.

In her article, Gordenker points out among other things, like potential hazards, that the bottles have no effect in scaring away cats. A simple search on the internet will dig up a number of sites in Japanese that note virtually the same thing which casual observation will easily support. So now my question is: “What’s with all the bottles?”

1 comment:

  1. Hello Johntaro.
    Greetings from Colombia.

    I would like to introduce myself. I am Esteban Zapata I am a visual artist and I am actually doing a very important project in partnership with a team of anthropologists, sociologists and etólogos around easily recognized symbols or homemade animal control system. Looking for more references I found your site and some photos in which there are bottles full of water; matter that I find very interesting and is for that reason that I am writing you.

    Our project is directly related with this phenomenon from which we have visual registers in different cities of Colombia, Thailand, Spain, México, Republic of Malta and Venezuela. We intend to finish our research which now bears 1 year with a book publication that will have writings, essays and images around that topic.

    We propose you to join us to the project, in a virtual way, sending your comments to make them part of the book; of course recognizing your participation by mentioning you in the authorship of this publication, of which, we will send you a copy, as a gratitude.

    Mi e-mail is.

    And if you want to know more about my personal work you can find me at this website:

    We hope you can be a part in this great project, I appreciate your attention.

    On behalf of the entire team, I wish all the best.
    Esteban Zapata.