The 2022 FIFA World Cup was among the best international sporting events in recent memory. The on-pitch product did not disappoint at all. We saw some fantastic upset wins for smaller footballing nations, Lionel Messi winning the World Cup and cementing his legacy, and the continued rise of Kylian Mbappe as the next global soccer superstar.
Off the pitch, there were some fun and viral moments. What stood out, especially to Consensus, was the Japan National Team fans.
Japan made headlines not just for its meteoric wins over Germany and Spain but also for how its citizens acted in the stands. After each match the Samurai Blue played, their spectators did not exit the stadium. They cleaned up all their trash from their section without any requests from stadium staff.
Social media praised the work of the fans, but this is not an uncommon practice in their country. Cleaning up after oneself is a time-honored tradition in Japan.
From a young age, Japanese people are taught the importance of cleanliness and tidiness. In schools, students are responsible for classroom upkeep and don’t wear shoes in classrooms or at home. At festivals and sporting events, citizens also pick up after themselves. “It’s a sign of respect for a place,” said Eiji Hattori, a Tokyo resident. It’s a more refined distinction of “leave no trace.”
Elementary schools don’t have janitors, leaving the cleaning in the hands of the students. In professional settings, coworkers will dedicate an hour to tidying up the office. To the Western world, this might seem unusual, but any Japanese person will say this is nothing new.
“For Japanese people, this is just a normal thing to do,” said Hajime Moriyasu, head coach of the country’s National Team. It’s all about respecting other people’s space; in the World Cup’s case, respecting the host nation of Qatar.
The players also participated in this clean-up effort. Following their sensational victory over Germany, the players cleaned up their locker room, only leaving behind origami cranes for the stadium staff.
Despite reveling in what might be their biggest victory on the international soccer stage, the Samurai Blue players went above and beyond to clean up behind themselves.
The 2022 World Cup was not the first time Japanese fans cleaned up their section of stadiums. In 2018, they did the same thing, even after losing to Belgium in the knockout rounds. Even if they were struck by sadness, they showed the ultimate respect.
Fast forward to 2022, and fans of other nations are beginning to do similar things. Saudi Arabian and Moroccan spectators followed suit, picking up trash after their matches. Even French World Cup goers participated in a clean-up effort. Other countries can learn a lot from the Samurai Blue supporters.
“We don’t need to push anyone to clean. But if we start, maybe we can be a good example of respect,” said Tomomi Kishikawa, another fan in Qatar.
While this made waves in America and Europe, the reaction wasn’t the same in Japan. Since this is a normal custom, the public response was much more subdued.
“Nobody in Japan would report on this,” said Midori Mayama, a reporter at the World Cup. She continued by saying cleaning happens at baseball games in the country. To them, it’s a continuation of cultural norms. To the rest of the world, it set an example of how fan culture can change to be more respectful and eco-friendly.