Japanese student’s game invites players to hunt trash

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A Japanese university student has created a game that turns picking up trash on the streets into a fun team competition, aiming to take him overseas to clean up the global environment.

Yuto Kitamura came up with the idea for Seisochu, in which points are awarded based on the type and weight of trash collected within a set time frame, after realizing that picking up trash was like “treasure hunting.”

Shocked by online images of beaches overflowing with trash, Kitamura started picking up trash on his own three years ago when he was a high school student and got excited when he found items washed up from foreign countries.

He also took on the challenge of using a wooden stick to pick up floating trash out of reach.

Although he enjoyed cleaning up trash from riverbanks and other places he visited, Kitamura began to feel uncomfortable with the praise he received, such as “You are very conscientious.” and “You are awesome”.

That’s when Kitamura, now 19, came up with the idea for a trash picking game that could involve lots of people and turn an entire town into a play zone. He named the game Seisochu after being inspired by “Run for Money: Tosochu”, a popular TV variety show in which celebrities run away from hunters with a prize at stake.

In the game, participants collect trash and also try to complete “missions” sent to their smartphones. A “Hunter” will appear and confiscate the trash they have collected. Participants compete for points.

The game proved popular, with around 1,000 people, children and adults, having taken part in games held in the city of Nagano in central Japan, the Shibuya district of Tokyo and other locations. It is also expected to be played in the Itabashi district of Tokyo and Kofu in central Japan.

“I hope this will be an opportunity to learn more about environmental issues while having fun,” said Kitamura, who now also works for Gab Inc., a Tokyo venture capital firm that deals with various social problems.

His interest in environmental issues grew after seeing television reports about marine plastic pollution when he was a second-grade high school student in Nagano Prefecture.

Shortly after, he came across images of trash strewn on the Internet at Enoshima Beach in Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, which he had become familiar with as a child.

“I heard that Southeast Asian countries and India are some of the major sources of marine litter. I want to turn off the tap at the source and hopefully go global one day,” Kitamura said.