Japan fans earn plaudits for cleaning pitches at World Cup 2022 | Qatar World Cup 2022

Japan’s stunning victory over Germany on Wednesday had their fans in an unbelievably joyous state.

Now, Blue Warriors supporters are drawing praise in Qatar for an off-field tradition that seems uniquely Japanese: cleaning up the stadium after other fans have left.

It has become increasingly common for Japanese fans to stay and help clean up the Khalifa International Stadium following Japan’s victory over Germany on Wednesday.

Once the stadium was empty at first, the Japanese supporters could be seen pulling out their pale blue disposable trash bags and getting to work.

While the sight of spectators left to clean up may surprise many, it’s not uncommon for the Japanese.

“What you think is special is actually not unusual for us,” Japanese fan Danno told Al Jazeera with a casual shrug.

Tuano couldn’t understand why people thought the gesture was weird.

“When we use the toilet, we clean it ourselves. When we leave the room, we make sure the room is tidy. It’s the custom,” he explained.

“We can’t leave without cleaning up the place. It’s part of our education and our daily learning.”

In the days following Sunday’s match opener between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium, social media has seen posts of Japanese fans carrying garbage bags.

In one post, a man expressed his shock at a Japanese fan cleaning the Al Bayt stadium long after most spectators had left and at a game without the Japanese team.

Supporters of Samurai Blue have been clearing football fields for some time; even a loss will not deter them from this important post-match task.

During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Japan lost the round of 16 match against Belgium due to an injury-time goal. The Japanese fans were heartbroken, but that didn’t stop them from pulling out their disposable trash bags and heading to work.

Saysuka, who spoke to Al Jazeera ahead of the match against Germany, said she knew people were paying attention to their traditions, but noted that fans were not doing it for publicity.

“Cleanliness and tidiness are like a religion to us Japanese, and we cherish it,” she said, before opening her backpack to reveal a pack of garbage bags that she will use and distribute to others after the race.

While videos of Japanese people cleaning stadiums on social media may be relatively new, neatness and order have deep roots in Japanese culture. These traits gained worldwide attention through books and television shows.

Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo is now a household name around the world, thanks to her books and hit Netflix series on the subject.

Takshi, a Japanese soccer supporter who lives in the United States but grew up in Japan, said he learned the tradition of tidiness as a child.

“We had to clean our rooms, our bathrooms, our classrooms, and then as we grew up, it became part of our lives,” he said.

After Japan’s victory over Germany, Takshi and his 13-year-old son Kayde stayed behind with their supporters.

With Japan three points clear at the top of the table and with two group games to play, fans and spectators can look forward to enjoying more of the Japanese aesthetic on and off the football field.


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