Doha, Qatar – Japan’s stunning victory over Germany left their football fans in a state of joyful disbelief on Wednesday.
Now, supporters of the Samurai Blue are earning praise in Qatar for an off-field tradition that appears to be uniquely Japanese: cleaning up stadiums after other football fans have left.
In what is 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 started to empty, Japanese supporters could be seen pulling out light blue disposable garbage bags and getting to work.
While the sight of onlookers left to clean up may come as a surprise to many, it is not uncommon for the Japanese.
“What you think is special is actually nothing unusual for us,” Danno, a Japanese fan, told Al Jazeera with a shrug.
Danno doesn’t understand why people find the gesture strange.
Japanese fans clean the stadium after just shocking the world.
I love the 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 toilet, we clean it ourselves. When we leave a room, we make sure it is tidy. That’s the custom,’ he explained.
“We cannot leave a place without cleaning it. It is part of our education, the daily learning.”
Social media posts featuring Japanese football fans carrying garbage bags began circulating in the days following the opening match of the tournament between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday.
You won’t be #Muslim to clean your rubbish behind you
Look at this amazing behavior from #Japanese fans, they clean up the studio behind them, even if it’s not their match, not the country, and not even their own garbage
-Mohammed Al-Jufairi (@maljefairi) November 21, 2022
In one post, a man expresses dismay at a clean-up by a Japanese fan at Al Bayt Stadium long after most of the spectators had left and in a match where the Japanese side was not present.
Samurai Blue supporters have been cleaning up football stadiums for some time now; even a defeat does not detract from this important post-match task.
During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Japan lost the round of 16 to Belgium with a goal in stoppage time. Japanese fans were heartbroken, but that didn’t stop them from grabbing their disposable garbage bags and getting to work.
Saysuka, who spoke to Al Jazeera ahead of the game against Germany, said she is aware that people are learning about their tradition, but noted that the fans are not doing it for publicity.
“Cleanliness and tidiness are like religion to us in Japan 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 game.
Japanese fans really are the best.🇯🇵
They beat Germany in a famous victory, but before they celebrated they hung around the Khalifa International Stadium to help clean up.👏 pic.twitter.com/sZhNExEDqi
— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) November 23, 2022
While videos on social media of the Japanese cleaning the stadium are relatively new, cleanliness and organization have deep roots in Japanese culture. These characteristics gain a worldwide following through books and TV shows.
Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo is now a global household name thanks to her books and a popular Netflix series on the subject.
Takshi, a Japanese football supporter who lives in the United States but grew up in Japan, says he was taught the tradition of cleanliness as a child.
“We had to clean our rooms, our bathrooms, our classrooms, and as we get older it becomes part of our lives,” he said.
After Japan’s victory over Germany, Takshi and his 13-year-old son Kayde stayed behind with their fellow supporters.
Now that Japan has three points on the table and two group matches to go, fans and spectators can be treated to more Japanese aesthetics, on and off the football pitch.