1st Mar 2018
Photo of JAPAN - THE CLEANLINESS HAVEN by Wanderlust09

There are so many reasons that make us travel. The excitement of a new place, the food, landscapes etc. However for many people travel is something that may bring upon discomfort and even anxiety. Because for them stepping out of their comfort zone isn’t what the issue is, it’s about whether a place will be clean and germ-free in order to truly enjoy their travel. Yes that’s right there are clean freaks or dare I say it those with symptoms of OCD who travel or at least want to. And there is the perfect place for that – JAPAN!

Japan as a culture has focused on cleanliness in a manner that would make most of us gasp in shock that whether that’s even humanly possible. Well in Japan it surely is.

1. RELIGION – One of the major religions in Japan is called Shinto. And it is said that the Japanese gods hated dirt and basically filth. It is imperative to wash hands before entering the shrines in Japan – even if you do not touch anything. There are water outlets upon entering the shrine and even one of their primary religions – Buddhism talks of cleanliness for a healthy mind and body.

Photo of Tokyo, Japan by Wanderlust09

2. PAST CONCERNS – Being prone to natural calamities and epidemics, Japanese people soon realized that in order to be healthy and preserve their longevity it is important to keep the environment clean. And this is something that comes to the Japanese as a whole and not just certain sections of society who practice and preach this (unlike in other parts of the world!)

Photo of Imperial Palace, 1-1 Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan by Wanderlust09

3. TAKING ACCOUNTABILITY OF ONE’S OWN MESS – This is probably one of my favorite things about Japan. Children here are taught from a very early age that if they make a mess well they clean it up. As most cultures enable behavior calling it childish or innocent, the Japanese believe that enabling good behavior early like cleanliness is not a habit but a lifestyle. Children in higher classes go to the younger ones to teach the same. For cleaning purposes the class is divided in groups known as ‘han’, which are responsible for cleaning by dusting, wiping tables, vacuuming etc.

4. NO PUBLIC TRASH CANS – The first time I came here and finished a bottle of water while walking I realized there are no trash cans in sight! My Japanese and expat friends told me that there are no trash cans because here they don’t believe others will pick up after you. Hence any trash you have is taken home and disposed of in the proper manner. Because of this you don’t find the city and most places littered because no matter what you eat and drink while out, suffice to say you would carry it home or to your hotel and throw it properly. And because you don’t see garbage for this reason on the streets, it’s pretty easy as tourists to pick up on this habit and maintain the same.

Photo of JAPAN - THE CLEANLINESS HAVEN by Wanderlust09

5. ORDERLY GARBAGE – Whether it’s the garbage disposal in your home or air bnb there is a common thread to the garbage disposal system. Separating your trash here is imperative. You cannot just put everything in one bag and throw it. For example, a particular town’s system may sort them out into burnable (red bags), non-burnable (blue bags), paper, plastic, cans, cartons, styrofoam, PET bottles, batteries, broken glass, etc. (white bags). Depending on the type, some are collected weekly while others are then collected bi-monthly or monthly.

Photo of JAPAN - THE CLEANLINESS HAVEN by Wanderlust09

6. SELF SERVICE CLEAN UP – Not just homes but even at most cafes and restaurants one needs to pick up after themselves. Self service restaurants expect you to dispose of garbage in a manner that makes their clean up system more efficient. For example even at a Starbucks here you would have clearly marked bins for where to throw paper cups, plastic, napkins, the cup lid, stirrers etc.

Photo of JAPAN - THE CLEANLINESS HAVEN by Wanderlust09

7. NEIGHBOURHOOD CLEANUPS AND LOCAL DRIVES – Just yesterday at Shibuya station – one of the busiest crossings ever, I noticed a group come together to help clean up the station area as it is filled with tourists. And despite best attempts at keeping it clean, you do find the occasional cigarette butt or bottle thrown around. People even have to wake up as early as 7 am to do some neighbourhood cleaning before they actually go to work.

Photo of JAPAN - THE CLEANLINESS HAVEN by Wanderlust09

8. PRISTINE PUBLIC TRANSPORT – So for those who think public transport can be dirty and smelly think again. In Japan you cannot eat or drink while using the subway system. And even though this is true for most subways across the world, Japan is probably one of the few places where people happily follow this rule. Also the fact that they have some trains with wonderfully comfy cushion seating and they wouldn’t want stains or spills on that. Whether it's the local trains or the bullet trains they are for sure the best trains I ever used in my life!

Photo of JAPAN - THE CLEANLINESS HAVEN by Wanderlust09
Photo of JAPAN - THE CLEANLINESS HAVEN by Wanderlust09

All in all for anyone with a neat freak bit, Japan is sure to be your actual ‘vacation’!

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