On a windswept island in the middle of Tokyo Bay, a small mountain rises above the waves. A few seagulls and crows swoop above the brown reeds as Mount Fuji looms over the horizon. The island seems pastoral enough, but it's totally fake and made out of garbage.

The New Sea Surface Disposal Site is the final resting place for trash churned out by Tokyo's 23 wards. It's crawling with dump trucks and bulldozers packing Tokyo's waste into a carefully layered sandwich 30 meters deep. The island is composed of ash from incinerated trash, pulverized nonburnable trash and processed sewage sludge, along with real soil. Exhaust pipes for methane gas seeping from the garbage underfoot stud the mass, while exposed sedimentary layers reveal plastic scraps and other refuse, some decades old. But these are rare: garbage is mostly invisible here, buried under a top layer of soil, and that's why the sky isn't full of birds like in Alfred Hitchcock's avian thriller of 1963. And as the landfill grows, so does the city: This is the newest face of Tokyo.

A bird
A bird's-eye view of the Central Breakwater landfill sites (left, middle) and the New Sea Surface Disposal Site (right). | COURTESY OF THE TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT BUREAU OF ENVIRONMENT