'It's not just part of the football culture but part of Japanese culture.'
Even though Japan's World Cup match isn't until Sunday in Qatar, Japanese fans have already made a big impression on fans all over the world. A video shared on Instagram by influencer Omar Farooq, captured towards the conclusion of Qatar's first game against Ecuador, showcases fans cleaning up after themselves. Farooq was surprised to see that it was Japanese fans who waited behind after the game ended and everyone left, ensuring the stadium was all cleaned up and tidy.
Farooq is amazed by the fans as they fill garbage bags with the trash left behind in the aisles and make sure everything is spotless. In Japan, everyone is taught from an early age that they must clean up before leaving and this kind of conduct is common.
It represents a cultural norm in the country based on respect and is carried well into any space. “Someone convince me that this is normal. The Japanese fans decided to clean the stadium. It's not even their match,” exclaimed Farooq in the video, which has gone viral. “When I asked them, ‘Why are you cleaning something not related to you?', the answer was, ‘Japanese never leave rubbish behind us. We respect the place.'”
Faaroq is then seen hugging some of the fans, gesturing the respect sign to them and telling some of the fans that he really respects them and their culture. The video has over 11 million views, with many Japanese users sharing their own experiences. User @ny_diary_yuko shared their own experience growing up in the country, commenting under the post, "When I went to school over 40 years ago in Japan, our teachers repeatedly mentioned to us 'to leave the place cleaner than when we came' whenever we went to school trips. It was normal custom even at home, and my mom always had few garbage bags with her wherever she went to use when no garbage cans weren’t available."
User @i_am_na723 commented, "This is a Japanese proverb 立つ鳥跡を濁さず (tatsu tori atowo nigosazu) it means it is simply common courtesy to clean up after yourself, a bird does not foul the nest it is about to leave, on leaving a place one should see that all is in good order. Thank you for sharing this video! I’m so happy as a Japanese."
After winning against Germany, the Japanese team left its locker extremely tidy, with the laundry folded and stacked and also folded some origami on the center table.
This is how the Japanese national team left its locker room after beating Germany this morning 👏— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) November 24, 2022
(📷: FIFA) pic.twitter.com/rZrSpl4jMb
This is not the first time Japan has impressed the world with its courtesy and charm. They made sure the stadium was spotless, even after a very saddening World Cup semifinal loss to Belgium, just as they had done throughout the entire tournament.
“Cleaning up after football matches is an extension of basic behaviors that are taught in school, where the children clean their school classrooms and hallways,” Scott North, professor of sociology at Osaka University, told the outlet at the time. “With constant reminders throughout childhood, these behaviors become habits for much of the population.”
"It's not just part of the football culture but part of Japanese culture," Japan-based football journalist Scott McIntyre told the BBC, adding, "You often hear people say that football is a reflection of culture. An important aspect of Japanese society is making sure that everything is absolutely clean and that's the case in all sporting events and certainly also in football."
"They might leave a bottle or some kind of food package on the ground and then it's often the case that people get tapped on the shoulder by Japanese people indicating they should clean up or take it home but can't leave it there," McIntyre added.