Just flitting through a bunch of tabs on my reader I found this interesting photo story about Kamikatsu, a small village in the hills of Shikoku that is attempting to go entirely sustainable - eliminating the need for landfill and recycling or reusing everything.
This is serious recycling - none of that "we don't take anything other than type 1 or 2 plastics and you deal with your own plastic bags" attitude here. There are 34 categories to sort your stuff in to!
This kind of initiative seems to the sort of thing that the village structure of Japan can facilitate. From what I read they seem to be much more self-governing, still running on models that Edo-era villagers would recognise. By contrast, my own experience of a village in Shropshire, in the rural hinterland of the English/Welsh border was of a place where you knew one or two families with kids your own age and no-one else had anything to do with each other. You'd never rustle up this kind of cooperation there.