Cycling Tokyo

Why are streets in Japan so clean?

This is a frequently asked question. Usually I answered “Because Japanese like cleanliness. At school they learn how to clean by cleaning the classroom”. But I kept wondering “Are these really the true reasons?” Now I came to realize that the notion of cleanliness is something deeply rooted in the mind of Japanese. It may be attributed to the Shintoism, an indigenous religion and one of the two major religions in Japan. There, God is always considered to be a pure existence. The Torii gate, front gate of Shinto shrine, segregates the outer (polluted) human world and inner (pure) God’s world.

At the entrance to the Shinto shrine or the Buddhist temple, there is always a water basin to clean (purify).

People take off shoes when entering the house. The Shinto priests wear white attires. When they are trained to be the priests, they stand under to waterfall praying sutras to purify their body and soul. The paper décor in the Torii gate is white.

The end of the beams at the shrine are painted white.

White is the color to symbolize purity. So, being clean is the way to keep Japanese together with their God. It is so deeply rooted in the mindset of Japanese that unconsciously they try to keep things around them always neat and clean. This is my analysis.