Culture of Cleanliness: From World Cup to Life in Japan

After their national team’s emotional victories over Germany, Spain, and even their loss to Costa Rica, Japanese fans have continued the tradition of celebration by staying behind to clean up the trash at the stadium before leaving the venue to celebrate the victory.

The Japanese fans were hailed for their show of respect, as they could be seen patrolling the seats with rubbish bags, picking up all the trash that had gathered during the game.

This observation may leave you wondering how Japan maintains its cleanliness.

According to Maiko Awane, assistant director of the Hiroshima Prefectural Government’s Tokyo office, in an interview with the BBC, “For 12 years of school life, from elementary school to high school, cleaning time is part of students’ daily schedule.”

“In our home life as well, parents teach us that it’s bad for us not to keep our things and our space clean.” Awane continues.

Why is Japan so Clean?

You will be impressed by how Japanese people keep their communities beautiful wherever you go in Japan, from huge cities to the countryside. Traditionally, cleanliness has been an important component of Japanese culture, and Japanese people unconsciously work hard every day to maintain the country clean. But what are the secrets behind Japan’s pristine cleanliness?

Many people have answered the question above that: “Because their education is good”—an answer that most people would say right away if asked—but I wonder why the Japanese focus on cleanliness in education.

From here, I want us to go deeper into ethnicity and the ladder of values in educating people in Japan.

While the ladder of moral values in the West is “truthfulness, goodness, beauty,”  in the East it is “humanity, ceremony, righteousness, solitude, faith, loyalty,” and for Shinto in Japan it is “pure, clear, righteous, and upright.” I think there is probably not any nation in the world that puts the issue of “pure” first, and that’s why in Japanese education, “cleanliness” is always the most important.

In Japan, there are very few public trash cans.

Culture of Cleanliness
Via Flickr

There aren’t many trash cans in public places in Japan. Train station platforms, convenience stores, restaurants, and department stores are all included. Public safety is one of the reasons for the lack of trash cans in Japan. Installing a garbage can in public means that anyone can throw anything in it, which could lead to unanticipated crimes like indiscriminate attacks or terrorism. Following the horrific sarin gas attack at Tokyo’s metro station in 1995, numerous trash cans were removed from public places around Japan in order to avert a repeat disaster.

Aside from security concerns, Japanese people are conscious of their environmental responsibilities. Most people do not leave their trash in public and instead take it home with them to dispose of. It is a component of Japanese culture and is most likely the largest secret to the country’s exceptional cleanliness.

In Japan, there are also specific rules regarding rubbish separation. Households collect their trash and appropriately sort it into distinct categories such as burnable, non-burnable, recyclable, and unrecyclable. It is also illegal to leave household trash in public trash cans, therefore people take their trash to adjacent trash collection places on designated days.

Clean up in school

Students in Japanese schools are responsible for keeping their classrooms clean. Cleaning is part of their daily routine, which typically begins shortly after lunch or at the end of the day. Each classroom in many schools contains a container for cleaning supplies such as brooms, buckets, cleaning rags, dustpans, and brushes. Only a few schools, mostly private ones, employ janitors to handle the cleaning instead of students. Students use cleaning rags to clean windows and brooms to sweep the floor.

They must also clean halls, restrooms, and other facilities such as the music room, gym, and science lab. As a result, Japanese pupils naturally learn the value of cleanliness at a young age.

Cleaning up in the neighborhood


If you reside in Japan, you will very certainly be requested to participate in frequent (and semi-obligatory) community clean-ups in your neighborhood. Neighbors don gloves, carry shovels, scythes, rakes, and clippers, and collectively clear the street drains, cut back trees, weeds, and grass, and generally tidy up the surrounding area, including small parks and public toilets, at these predetermined times, sometimes as early as 7 a.m. so people can participate before they have to go to work. A little aid goes a long way, and citizens can be proud of their community. It’s just part of the neat culture, and it also helps neighbors bond as a community.

Regularly clean the house


When you visit Japan, the first thing you will notice is that it is not only their homes that are ordered and immaculate. This includes their public spaces.

The Japanese as a society are concerned with the cleanliness of their hospitals, marketplaces, neighborhoods, and other public spaces, and this practice begins in their homes. The Japanese do not clean their homes every time they become cluttered; they clean their dwellings regardless. It’s hardly unexpected that they’re interested in street cleaning to keep the regions around their homes clean.

These are just a few of the reasons why Japanese people keep their homes tidy:

Never wear shoes inside the home.


Shoes are not permitted inside Japanese homes. Everyone will normally remove their shoes in the foyer or genkan. Here is considered a public room for the house, and in most Japanese households, this is where any outdoor shoes are removed and stored inside the getabako, a particular shoe shelf or closet. The genkan is normally clean and well-organized, and there may be a stool or bench for those who need to sit down to remove their shoes. After taking off your shoes, most Japanese households will have slippers waiting for you.

The Japanese don’t even wear slippers in the house. Slippers are permitted in the corridor and any room with flooring. However, if you enter a room with tatami mats, you must remove your house slippers. When entering the toilet, you’ll notice toilet slippers by the door, which you should only wear into the toilet and remove once you step out. The host frequently lines up the guests’ shoes outside, ready to be stepped into when it’s time to leave. Most homes also keep a variety of slippers in the basket so that guests may easily select what they need.

Habits of Indoor Living

Unlike most Western homes, where everything is elevated, whether sitting on a chair or sleeping in a bed, the Japanese like to sit or sleep on cushions or even on the floor. As a result, they normally take extra precautions to keep the floor clean and avoid bringing in germs or dirt from outside, which might happen when you wear your shoes inside.

One of the reasons they are so concerned about cleanliness is that they believe visitors would judge them negatively if their home is not clean. As a result, the Japanese will strive to avoid allowing visitors into their houses if they haven’t cleaned up.

Another reason why cleanliness is so essential in the life of the Japanese is because nearly half of them (46.8%) are Buddhists. Buddhism promotes frugal, minimalist lifestyle that is free of clutter and takes place in clean surroundings.

Mold are a major issue.

On rainy summer days, the air in Japan is easily humidified, which is when mold thrives. As a result, the Japanese have learnt to clean their homes as frequently as possible, employing a variety of mold-prevention solutions. Aside from chemical cleaning, there are measures that are widely utilized to avoid mold growth, which contributes to total house cleaning. This involves leaving windows open, particularly in the kitchen, bathroom, and toilet, to allow for fresh air and sunlight.

Even closet doors are left open, and on days when there is no sun or breeze, it is usual for individuals to switch on fans to allow air to flow. Some people even spray the room with cold water to cool it down and then wipe the water away until the room is dry.

Buddhism/Shinto emphasizes cleanliness.

Historically, hygiene has been viewed as an important aspect of religious practice in Buddhism and Japanese Shintoism. Cleaning is said to be a simple but powerful way to improve one’s mental health by keeping one’s surroundings beautiful in these religions.

Cleaning is a daily practice for many individuals, but it is also beneficial to your physical and emotional health. Before worshiping to gods, visitors to Shinto shrines in Japan are invited to purify their mouths and hands at a cleansing fountain called “Chozuya” (手水舎). One of Shintoism’s essential principles is that impurity or uncleanliness, known as “Kegare” (穢れ) in Japanese, must be removed before visiting the sacred grounds of Shinto shrines.

While many Japanese people take pleasure in keeping their town clean, certain outliers act selfishly regardless and will act in an unpleasant manner. What matters most is that everyone is aware of their role and works together to keep their country beautiful.

There are numerous other reasons why Japan is so clean, but these are only a handful of them. Furthermore, they appear to function!

All of our cultures have a lot of great things to teach us, and the more we learn from each other as global citizens, the better our world will be. Japan is one of the world’s cleanest countries; who better to teach us how to keep our homes clean than the Japanese?


You see, my love for Japan is not only based on personal experience; it's based on a deep admiration for Japanese culture, history, and traditions. Thank you, Japan, for being a constant source of inspiration, joy, and wonder in my life. I may never be able to express my love for Japan in person, but I hope that through my blog and my writing, I can share a small piece of my admiration and devotion with the world.

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