Is Japan "Obsessed" with Cleanliness?

by Mari.K - Japan Licensed Guide
(74) Reviews

"Why is Japan so clean and tidy?" This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get while working as a tour guide.

Many foreigners are surprised by the following:

  1. Public spaces including streets, train stations and restrooms are clean. Trash is nowhere to be seen. It's also rare to find garbage bins on the streets because people are encouraged to take garbage back home.
  2. At school, students clean their own classrooms, the hallways, and other parts of the school as part of their training. Some of my tour customers find this surprising because back in the States there are janitors to clean up the classrooms.
  3. Recently, students from Harvard business school visited Japan to study the effective cleaning methods of Shinkansen staff. In their research called "The 7-Minute Miracle", they were astonished to find out that one cleaning staff can collect trash, wipe down all the tables and floors, turn around all the 100 seats and keep the trains clean and tidy—within 7 minutes! They can be seen in action in these photos below.Is Japan "Obsessed" with Cleanliness?

There are so many other places in Japan that you wouldn't expect to be so squeaky clean and spotless. However, have you ever thought why the Japanese are fastidious when it comes to keeping things clean?

Here are my thoughts:

First, it may be due to the influence of religion on our society. Whenever we step into the Shinto shrine, for example, we need to wash our hands before praying. Also, Buddhism teaches the importance of cleanliness as it directly correlates with having a peaceful mind. Therefore, it has become our custom to take responsibility of our mess and dispose of our garbage at home.

Second, it has something to do with history. Japan has suffered from numerous epidemics, widespread infectious diseases and food poisonings and many other devastating events in the past. Because of these tragedies, we became aware of the importance of keeping our environment clean.

More than thirty years ago, the streets in Japan were littered with garbage. We could not afford to clean our surroundings at that time. Our public spaces looked entirely different from how they look today. But as Japan's economy improved, we became wealthy enough to make our environment clean, which also promoted physical and mental health.

Why is Japan so clean and tidy? Well, now you know the answer. It's great to be clean and tidy because we need to take care of our environment. It is our responsibility. I am glad that foreigners appreciate this aspect of Japanese culture. And if more and more foreigners get to experience Japan's cleanliness, I would be happy.  

If you plan to visit Tokyo, it would be a great pleasure to show you around. I will tell you more about our culture. https://triplelights.com/profile/3624

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Mari.K

Licensed Guide
(74) Reviews

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“ Fabulous first day in Tokyo with Mari. ”

Excellent
9 months ago Traveler: Kate -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

Mari was polite, very interesting, personable, and knowledgeable. She was very thoughtful in providing us all with surgical masks for protection during the corona virus pandemic. Mari was helpful in providing helpful tips for the rest of our time planned in Tokyo. I highly recommend utilising Triplelights and booking Mari whilst in Tokyo. It was a great way for us family of five to see some of t...
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“ Very Helpful Guide ”

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10 months ago Traveler: Josipa -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

Mari was a lovely lady who had a personalised note waiting for us at our hotel. She met us there and was adaptable for our first day to organise our rail and metro passes as well. She took us to an amazing lunch spot and was very patient with my tired boys. Mari would probably be better suited to a couple, as my boys were a challenge, though she was very kind and did her best. Thank you Mari for a...
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“ Amazing Night Tour with Limited Time ”

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10 months ago Traveler: Mary -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

Due to our limited time and in the evening, hiring a tour guide (Mari) was our best choice to get the most out of our short stay. Mari was friendly, professional, and well versed in the history of Narita and Japan in General. Mari assisted/guided in storing our luggage, transit and check-in at our hotel even before our tour started. Once we began, we walked through Narita and stopped by many place...
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“ Very nice and recommended ”

Excellent
1 year ago Traveler: Milan -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

Mari was very helpful and patient in taking us through our trip. She made the effort to pick us up from hotel. She also explained the history behind the various places we visited. We told we are vegetarian and she found a great lunch place on the tour. Highly recommended.
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“ Best way to spend a Narita Airport layover & experience Japanese culture! ”

Excellent
1 year ago Traveler: Lisa -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

Mari helped me make the most of my layover, very efficiently introducing me to Japanese culture. In just four hours, she introduced me to Japanese pastries, we toured a gorgeous temple and grounds, attended a tea ceremony, visited a shrine, strolled the very quaint and historic town of Narita, shopped for personalized chopsticks and other crafts, and ate delicious ramen. Throughout, Mari provid...
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“ excellent 4-hour tour with Mari ”

Very Good
1 year ago Traveler: Davy -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

Mari is a very cheerful and experienced tour guide. She brought us to Tsukiji and showed us all the interesting stores and places at the market. She narrated the interesting stories and events that happened at Tsukiji. Instead of queuing for hours to try quality sushi at the market, Mari steered us to a little sushi shop, Sushi Cho, a few blocks from Tsukiji which sells excellent quality sushi wit...
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1 year ago Traveler: Michelle -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

We could not have experienced Nikko in one day without Mari. She knew all the special sights and could explain the history and rituals to us. She let us take our time to explore and answered all of our questions. I would highly recommend for a tour of Nikko and any other tour she offers.
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“ Exceeded expectations ”

Excellent
1 year ago Traveler: Gloria -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

We could not have asked for a better guide. Via emails, Mari determined our interests well ahead of time, and prepared an itinerary that not only included sights we requested but also introduced us to some "hidden secrets" that made the tour very special. She is very knowledgeable on all matters of Japan (even though our focus was on historical art and architecture) and enlightened us greatly on ...
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1 year ago Traveler: Robert -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

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“ Mari is the Tokyo guide ever!! ”

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1 year ago Traveler: David -   Tour Guide: Mari.K

Mari was an amazing guide!! We had the best time touring Tokyo with her. She taught us so many things. We got to visit Temples and Shrines and we loved touring the market with her. Mari made everything a fun adventure. She taught us how to use the subway, showed us how to make Wasabi, and even made sure we arrived at the Meiji Shrine in time to see a beautiful wedding. We had a proper Japanese lun...
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