Japanese soccer fans have made an impact at the World Cup in Qatar, but it’s not because of their raucous support for their team as they try to get out of the group stage.
The fans have gone viral for collecting the rubbish from their sections when the game ends. While it seems unusual to the rest of the world, it is routinely done at home by Japanese fans or players. For the fans, it is cleaning their surroundings and for the players it is tidying up the locker room.
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“For the Japanese, this is normal,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said. “When you leave, you have to leave a cleaner place than before. That’s the upbringing we’ve been taught. That’s the basic culture we have. For us, it’s nothing special.”
A spokeswoman for the Japan Football Association said it was supplying 8,000 garbage bags to help fans collect post-game “thank you” messages written on the outside in Arabic, Japanese and English.
Fans cleaning the stadium after Japan’s upset victory over Germany went viral on social media.
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Barbara Holthus, deputy director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies, told The Associated Press that cleaning up after dirt is ingrained in Japanese culture.
“You’re always supposed to take your trash home in Japan, because there are no trash cans on the street,” Holthus said. “You clean your classroom. From a very young age you learn that you are responsible for cleaning your own space.
“It’s partly cultural, but also the educational structures have been training you for a long time to do that.”
Japan is making its seventh consecutive World Cup appearance and the cleanup portion of its visit has drawn headlines beginning in 1998. Midori Mayama, a Japanese reporter in Qatar for the World Cup, told the AP that fans that they collect garbage were not a story at home.
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“No one in Japan would report on this,” he said. “This is all so normal.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.