Doha, Qatar – Japan’s stunning victory over Germany left fans in a state of gleeful disbelief on Wednesday.
Now, Samurai Blue supporters are earning praise in Qatar for an off-pitch tradition that appears to be uniquely Japanese: cleaning up stadiums after other fans have left.
In what is becoming an increasingly common sight, Japanese fans fell behind after their side’s win against Germany on Wednesday and helped clean up the Khalifa International Stadium.
As the stadium began to empty, Japanese fans could be seen pulling out their 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 out of the ordinary.
“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 strange.
Japanese fans clean up the stadium after just 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 toilet, we clean it ourselves. When we leave a room, we make sure it’s tidy. This is the custom,” she explained.
“We can’t leave a place without making it clean. It is part of our education, of everyday learning.
Social media posts depicting Japanese soccer fans with garbage bags began making the rounds in the days following Sunday’s opening match of the tournament between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium.
Don’t be a #Mussulman to clean up your trash behind you
Watch this amazing behavior from #Japanese the fans are cleaning the studio behind them even though there is no match, not the country and not even their own trash
– Muhammad Al-Jufairi (@maljefairi) November 21, 2022
In one post, a man expresses his shock at a Japanese fan cleaning 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 up football stadiums for a while; even a defeat doesn’t take them away from this important post-game task.
During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Japan lost their Round of 16 match against Belgium with an injury time goal. The Japanese fans were heartbroken, but that didn’t stop them from pulling out their disposable trash bag and going to work.
Saysuka, who spoke to Al Jazeera ahead of the match against Germany, said he was aware people were taking notice of their tradition, but noted 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 show a pack of garbage bags which he will use and distribute to others after the game.
Japan fans really are 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 Japanese people cleaning the stadium may be relatively new, order and organization have deep roots in Japanese culture. These features are gaining a worldwide following through books and television shows.
Japanese organization consultant Marie Kondo is now a household name around the world 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 the order as a child.
“We had to clean our rooms, our bathrooms, our classrooms, and then as we grow up, it becomes a part of our lives,” she said.
Following Japan’s victory over Germany, Takshi and his 13-year-old son Kayde fell behind with their fellow supporter.
With Japan now having three points in the table and two more group stage matches to go, fans and spectators can expect to be treated to more Japanese aesthetics, on and off the football pitch.