At the World Cup, Japan takes out the trash, and others get the hint

At the World Cup, Japan takes out the trash, and others get the hint

Al Rayyan, Qatar — The final whistle blew on Sunday afternoon, and Japanese fans who had just spent a few hours bouncing under the midday sun gave themselves a moment to bask in the frustration of their team’s 1-0 loss to Costa Rica.

But the moment passed quickly, and out came the blue trash bags.

in The return of the post-game ritual At this year’s World Cup, which is being watched with much awe, a group of Japanese spectators, who had only moments earlier been singing passionately for their team, began to meticulously clean the stands of the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, picking up the litter that had been scattered across the rows. seats around them.

It hardly matters what it was – a half-empty bottle of soda, an orange peel, a dirty napkin – or who left it behind. Fans shuffled down the aisle bagging the trash before handing it over to smiling — and clearly delighted — stadium workers.

“It’s a sign of respect for a place,” said Eiji Hattori, 32, a fan from Tokyo, who had bags of bottles, ticket stubs and other stadium detritus. “This place is not ours, so if we use it, we should clean it. And even if it’s not our trash, it’s still dirty, so we should clean it up.”

The image of spectators quietly taking on the role of gatekeeper during the World Cup has impressed observers in other countries, such as the United States, where sticky soda spills, popcorn-topped bags and mini-mountains of peanut shells are often accepted as part of normal play. The stadium experience.

But in Japan, tidiness, especially in public spaces, is widely accepted as a virtue. Japanese in the game said such habits are taught at home and reinforced in schools, where young students are expected to regularly clean their classrooms and school facilities.

Cleaning shared spaces like stadiums becomes a personal responsibility and not often an army of workers is hired to do it.

Hajime Moriyasu, the coach of the Japanese team, said, “It is natural for the Japanese to do this. “When you leave a place, you have to leave it cleaner than before.”

Contains videos and photos of Japanese cleaning sessions has gone viral On social media. But it’s not just the fans who are sharing them: Last week, FIFA posted a picture of the Japanese team’s locker room after a stunning upset win over Germany. The room was—you guessed it— spotless.

Fans of other teams, inspired by the Japanese, Also started cleaning up after the game.

“We believe we can make it contagious,” said Tomomi Kishikawa, 28, a fan from Tokyo, currently working as a flight attendant in Doha. “We don’t need to push anyone to clean up. But if we start, maybe we can be a good example of respect.”

For Japanese fans, the sudden global spotlight and wave of acclaim has been met with a mixture of pride, amusement and embarrassment.

Many have been enthralled by the positive image of the country’s culture. Some are confused about what the fuss is about. And others felt pangs of discomfort, wondering if this was another instance in which a certain behavior was held up as representative of the entire people of Japan.

For example, several fans at the stadium on Sunday tried to clarify one thing that may have been obscured by all the scathing viral posts and press coverage: While most Japanese people are conscientious about throwing out their own trash, only a small minority of fans are picking up other people’s trash at this World Cup. walking around

The Japan Football Association handed out hundreds of blue plastic bags on Sunday that read “thank you” in English, Japanese and Arabic, but only a few dozen fans — among the thousands in attendance — joined the larger effort.

“We were actually invited to clean up, but we didn’t want to,” said Nagisa Amano, 23, a fan from Yokohama. “We just wanted to enjoy the stadium. We have a right to do that, I think.”

Amano said he has heard of incidents in Japan where stadium workers were forced to reopen garbage bags packed by overzealous fans to separate the materials for recycling. Japanese fans in Qatar wondered if they might inadvertently interfere with similar efforts.

He said the hoopla about fans’ apparent cleanliness was probably good for Japan’s image abroad, but wondered if their motivations were entirely pure.

“I’ve heard that some people are joining that group just to enjoy being in the spotlight,” he said.

In a widely shared tweet after the Germany game, the former governor of Tokyo, Yoichi Masuzo, suggested that Japanese travelers should be more aware of local culture and customs and respect the fact that people were already employed to clean the stadiums.

“Japanese civilization is not the only world,” writes Masuzo.

But cleanliness seems to be appreciated in Qatar. After Japan’s win over Germany, a stadium staff member led a group of staff and volunteers to prepare the stands for the fans and Thank them with a bullhorn.

On Sunday, Jajiba Jaghloul, 18, a volunteer from Beirut, Lebanon, was zipping across the rows of seats holding her own blue trash bag.

“It’s not my job, but I feel a responsibility,” said Jaghloul, who noted that fans in Morocco and Saudi Arabia followed the example of Japanese fans and cleaned up after the game. “There is a sense of community when you see people caring. It’s a snowball effect.”

Hikari Hida contributed reporting.

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