Needing change for the bus the other day, I dropped into Ichiban Kan on Post Street in SF’s Japantown, looking to break a larger bill. For a little more than two bucks, I saw this:

An eco bag? My Japanese isn’t so sharp, but the kanji for shopping is printed on the label, along with images of what look to be a turnip and a couple daikon. Aha, this miracle of modern environmentalism is meant for groceries. Perfect, since San Francisco prohibits large supermarkets from providing plastic bags at checkout. Nevermind that this eco bag comes wrapped in non-eco plastic. I need change for the bus! I grabbed the blue L-size version and headed over to the cashier.

After I paid, she asked, “Do you need a bag for that?” Oh, the irony.

After shedding its shameful packaging, the eco bag revealed itself to be a fairly voluminous, two-handled affair with a velcro strap:

The design features a rabbit (just in time for New Year!) and a pig tending a garden, interspersed with French phrases (a sample: “C’est un légume délicieux”). While I kind of dig the randomness of these art choices, the material feels suspiciously thin and silky, as if a distant cousin of the plastic it intends to replace. It does collapse into a tiny bundle that will fit in your pocket, but I think I still prefer those sturdier cloth bags that have become increasingly popular for daikon-toting and the like.

Whatever form the bag takes, bringing your own could soon be the standard practice at stores all over ─ and especially in Japantowns, given that late last year, Los Angeles County and the City of San Jose followed San Francisco’s plastic bag ban with similar ordinances.

If you do decide it’s time for you to go the BYOB route, I wouldn’t dissuade you from running over to Ichiban Kan and picking up an eco bag. Or, if you’re willing to dole out more cash for a fancier bag made out of an old San Jose Japantown street banner, contact Kathy Sakamoto and Lydia Uchida-Sakai of Sak n’ Sak, a business we profiled in the Nichi Bei Weekly last spring. They’ll help make you the envy of your local supermarket.

What type of bag you bring, though, isn’t really as important as simply remembering to bring one. It’s not that easy; I usually forget to do so myself. So in closing, here’s a little hyperlink reminder for us all: Bring Your Own Bag.

2 responses to “Bags on the Brain”

  1. Beth Avatar

    I like this post! I always struggle to remember to bring Eco-bags when I go grocery shopping, and I think I have finally gotten reliably into the habit. Any advice for ways to remember to bring your own bag? I keep mine in the same place where I keep my shoes so I literally see them anytime I leave the apartment, which helps…

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    1. Nichi Bei Weekly Staff Avatar
      Nichi Bei Weekly Staff

      I usually try to keep a reusable bag that folds up quite nicely in my purse. They are particularly handy when just picking up an item or two at the store.

      Have also started to bring my own reusable hashi ( to work, rather than grabbing a disposable one each time I buy a bento.

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