Japanese fans impressed the world Tuesday night after their side won their opening game, beating Colombia 2-1, and securing the team’s first victory against a South American side.
After a heated World Cup match, the stands are usually left with food waste, cups and wrappers scattered in the heat of the moment.
But after the team swept Colombia off the pitch, Japanese fans also did their share of sweeping: meticulously cleaning up their rows and seats in the stadium.
Equipped with large rubbish bags they brought along, the fans marched through the rows picking up rubbish, to leave the place just as neat as they had found it.
And not for the first time – supporters of the “Samurai Blue” have never failed to stick to their good manners.
“It’s not just part of the football culture but part of Japanese culture,” Japan-based football journalist Scott McIntyre told the BBC. He is in Russia following the team and was not at all surprised by the somewhat different nature of Samurai Blue fans.
“You often hear people say that football is a reflection of culture. An important aspect of Japanese society is making sure that everything is absolutely clean and that’s the case in all sporting events and certainly also in football.”
Senegal fans have in fact been seeing doing the same at this year’s World Cup – but it’s the Japanese who pioneered it and are now famous for it.
It is something that comes as a surprise to many foreigners attending matches in Japan.
“They might leave a bottle or some kind of food package on the ground and then it’s often the case that people get tapped on the shoulder by Japanese people indicating they should clean up or take it home but can’t leave it there,” Mr McIntyre says.
It’s a habit drilled into Japanese people from early childhood.
“Cleaning up after football matches is an extension of basic behaviours that are taught in school, where the children clean their school classrooms and hallways,” explains Scott North, professor of sociology at Osaka University.
“With constant reminders throughout childhood, these behaviours become habits for much of the population.”
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