The Japanese Way

I can’t claim to be a regular at music festivals, but I have seen the disaster that is left as they finish. Rubbish everywhere. There are mountains of drink cans, food wrappers and sundry debris. I have experience of working in a tourist attraction and it is no different. Even in a small attraction, we need one or two staff forever picking up the detritus of a crowd.

I have been to a great many rugby and soccer matches and it is no different. The terraces are littered with the grazing debris of the fans. Clearing up after the mob is the downside of organising any event.

However, my experience is predominately British and European, and it certainly isn’t Japanese. So, it was a great surprise to read that after their recent World Cup football match against Columbia, the Japanese fans cleaned their stands before leaving the ground.

They had brought large rubbish bags with them, and at the end of the game, marched through the rows of seats, filled the bags and left the stadium as neat and tidy as it was when they arrived. This is not the first time. They did just the same after their game against the Ivory Coast in the 2014 competition.

Clearly, this is cultural. I am no expert in Shinto, Japan’s native religion, but I understand that at its core is purity and cleanliness. Japanese children clean the classroom and halls at their schools. Cleanliness is in the Japanese psyche. As someone said it is respect for the community over the individual.

I hadn’t thought about before but in none of my images of the Japanese is anything out of place. Everything is organised. From the well-behaved commuters allowing themselves to be pushed on to a train, the line of faultlessly attired schoolchildren waiting for instruction and the perfectly dressed Geisha attending the tea ceremony, tidiness is the stereotype I have of the Japanese. Every image I have of Japan is neat and tidy.

It is no surprise then to find that most often quoted ‘decluttering’ (this is more than the annual Spring clean but a way of life) expert, Marie Kondo, is Japanese.

As she says on her website: Marie Kondo is a Japanese organising consultant and author. She has written four books on organizing. Her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising has been published in more than 30 countries. Not only can you read her book, but you can learn her methods and become a certified decluttering consultant: Developed by Marie Kondo, The KonMari Method™ is widely regarded as a new approach to decluttering based on Japanese values in order to surround yourself with items that spark joy.

I am always looking for new lines of work, but I doubt this is for me. I agree with her. Being neat and tidy is first and foremost deep within you and however hard I try I don’t have the clean and tidy gene. What hair I have is always slightly dishevelled. My clothes never quite fit or as fully coordinated as Sasha’s or even Ben’s.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t tidy up a football stadium after I have littered it. I don’t throw rubbish out of my car and always look to put those used coke cans and coffee cups into bins.

Japanese football fans may have gone further than most and have set everyone an example we could follow. I hope their football team go far and keep winning. We need their fan’s example deep into the World Cup.