Doha, Qatar – Japan’s shock victory over Germany left soccer fans in a state of gleeful disbelief on Wednesday.
Now, Samurai Blue supporters are winning praise in Qatar for an off-pitch tradition that seems uniquely Japanese: cleaning up stadiums after other soccer fans have left.
In what is becoming increasingly common, Japanese fans stayed behind after their team’s win over Germany on Wednesday and helped clean up the Khalifa International Stadium.
As soon as the stadium began to empty out, Japanese fans could be seen pulling out light blue disposable garbage bags and getting to work.
While the sight of onlookers staying behind to clean up may come as a surprise to many, for the Japanese it’s not uncommon.
“What you think is special is actually nothing unusual for us,” Danno, a Japanese fan, told Al Jazeera with a casual shrug.
Danno doesn’t understand why people think the gesture is weird.
Japanese fans cleaning up the stadium after shocking the world.
I love people and I definitely have a soft spot for Japan. pic.twitter.com/sVGnI2UUxc
— Joey H.rbog (@joeyharbog_) November 23, 2022
“When we use the bathroom, we clean it ourselves. When we leave a room, we make sure that it is tidy. That is the custom,” she explained.
“We cannot leave a place without cleaning it. It is part of our education, of daily learning.”
Social media posts showing Japanese soccer fans carrying garbage bags began circulating in the days after the tournament’s opening game between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday.
You must not be a #Muslim to clean up your trash behind you
Look at this amazing behavior of #Japanese fans, they are cleaning the studio behind them, even if there is no match, nor the country, nor even their own garbage
— محمد الجفيري (@maljefairi) November 21, 2022
In one post, a man expresses his surprise at a Japanese fan cleaning up inside Al Bayt Stadium long after most of the spectators had left and in a match that did not feature the Japanese team.
Samurai Blue supporters have been cleaning soccer stadiums for a while; even a loss doesn’t divert them from this important post-game task.
During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Japan lost their Round of 16 match against Belgium with a goal in stoppage time. The Japanese fans were heartbroken, but that didn’t stop them from taking out their disposable garbage bag and heading to work.
Saysuka, who spoke to Al Jazeera ahead of the Germany game, said he was aware that people were taking notice of his tradition, but noted that fans weren’t doing it for publicity.
“Cleanliness and order are like a religion for us in Japan and we treasure it,” he said, before opening his backpack to reveal a bundle of garbage bags that he will use and distribute to others after the game.
Japan fans are really the best.🇯🇵
They beat Germany in a famous victory, but before celebrating they stayed at the Khalifa International Stadium to help clean up.👏 pic.twitter.com/sZhNExEDqi
—Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) November 23, 2022
While social media videos of the Japanese cleaning stadiums may be relatively new, cleaning and organizing have deep roots in Japanese culture. These features are gaining a worldwide following through books and television shows.
Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo is now a global household name thanks to her books and a popular Netflix series on the subject.
Takshi, a Japanese soccer fan who lives in the United States but grew up in Japan, says he learned the tradition of cleaning as a child.
“We had to clean our rooms, our bathrooms, our classrooms, and then as we get older, it becomes a part of our lives,” he said.
After Japan’s win over Germany, Takshi and his 13-year-old son Kayde stayed with their supporting partner.
With Japan now three points in the table and two group games to go, fans and spectators can look forward to a more Japanese aesthetic, on and off the soccer field.