‘Normal thing to do’: Japanese fans tidy up at World Cup

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. bag / bæg / (v.) – to put something in a bag

    The cashier bagged the vegetables I bought in a paper bag.

  2. be nothing special / bi ˈnʌθ ɪŋ ˈspɛʃ əl / (idiom) – to not be excellent or remarkable

    I don’t know why the restaurant is famous. The food is nothing special.

  3. engrained / ɛnˈgreɪnd / (adj.) – to be firmly taught or established in something that it’s not possible to change quickly

    Helping those in need is a value that’s deeply engrained in their family.

  4. spruce up / sprus ʌp / (idiom) – to make something cleaner or more beautiful

    I need to spruce up the house before my parents arrive.

  5. cultural / ˈkʌl tʃər əl / (adj.) – relating to the traditions, beliefs, or way of life of a group of people

    The Americans and the Japanese have a lot of cultural differences.


Read the text below.

The sight of Japanese fans at a World Cup bagging trash after a match — win or lose — always surprises non-Japanese. Japanese players are famous for doing the same in their team dressing room: hanging up towels, cleaning the floor, and even leaving a thank-you note.

The behavior is driving social media posts at the World Cup in Qatar, but it’s nothing unusual for Japanese fans or players. They are simply doing what most people in Japan do — at home, at school, at work, or on streets from Tokyo to Osaka, Shizuoka to Sapporo.

“For Japanese people, this is just the normal thing to do,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said. “When you leave, you have to leave a place cleaner than it was before. That’s the education we have been taught. That’s the basic culture we have. For us, it’s nothing special.”

A spokeswoman for the Japanese Football Association said it’s supplying 8,000 trash bags to help fans pick up after matches with “thank you” messages on the outside written in Arabic, Japanese and English.

Barbara Holthus, a sociologist who has spent the last decade in Japan, said cleaning up after oneself is engrained in Japanese culture.

“You’re always supposed to take your trash home in Japan because there are no trash cans on the street,” said Holthus, the deputy director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies. “You clean your classroom. From a very young age, you learn you are responsible for the cleanliness of your own space.”

Many Japanese elementary schools don’t have janitors, so some of the clean-up work is left to the young students. Office workers often dedicate an hour to spruce up their areas.

“It’s partly cultural, but also the education structures have been training you for a long time to do that,” Holthus added.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Why do you think a lot of non-Japanese are surprised about Japanese fans cleaning up after themselves after matches? Discuss.
  • The Japanese have become popular during the World Cup because of their habit of cleaning up after matches. What are some actions from the people of your country that make you proud? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Holthus said that in Japan, you should always take your trash with you because there are no trash cans on the street. Do you think not providing trash cans is a good idea? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Children also learn to clean in schools from an early age. In your opinion, what things should children learn to do at a young age (ex. helping with chores, commuting)? Why? Discuss.