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Once again, this overlaps with other categories such as culture and the people, but it is one aspect of Japan that is obvious in every day life and deserves a big mention.
At the risk of sounding too much like an old man here, I think that the respect shown by Japanese, young and old, to the environment they live in and the people around them is a beautiful thing and is partly what makes Japan so great. It quickly becomes obvious to most westerners who travel to Japan, as this respect is rapidly becoming a thing of the past in some western cultures. In terms of the UK at least, it is very normal to walk along a street full of litter, passing vandalised phone boxes and graffiti-covered walls and to be given some verbal abuse by a complete stranger. Sad but true. Not always the case, but not uncommon. It is however, very uncommon in Japan.
As soon as you step off the plane in Tokyo, you will no doubt notice that everything is immaculate, from the outfits warn by staff to the litter-free walk ways that lead you through customs. Fortunately, this doesn’t stop at the airport and continues as you head on to the train platforms and then on to the train – not a bit of chewing gum on the seat to sit on or broken vending machines on the platform. It continues throughout Japan. You can even see the poor old homeless people on the banks of the Sumida river in Tokyo sweeping up around their shelters and even taking their shoes off as they enter their boxes. You may be forgiven for thinking that all the pretty over packaging on goods would be ideal for littering the streets as people chomp though their Pocky or Crunky chocolate bars, but no! Litter is deposited in the correct recycling bins or held on to until a bin becomes available. This is not just the older men and women in society, but it goes for the children and teenagers alike. Refreshing I think you’ll agree and how it should be. As we say in the West, don’t ‘dirty’ your own doorstep – it would be so much nicer if people practised this like they do in Japan.
This is all down to the people, the culture and the Japanese Shinto religion which promotes a respect for the surrounding environment and the spirits that exist in it and therefore a respect for each other and local community, young and old. To be born Japanese is to be born Shinto and it breeds a certain way of thinking and acting. The cleanliness and respect for the local environment, community and other people is blatant to see for any visitor to Japan and is another reason why Japan is so great.