Cleaning Culture: Why Japanese kids clean their schools.

Cleaning Culture: Japanese kids clean their schools.

O-soji, the tradition of cleaning

Many Westerners grew up in a world where they went to school, had classes, recess, more classes, and then went home. They had janitors cleaning their classes and schools for them. At some places, the only cleaning students did at school was erasing the chalkboard. In anime we noticed in many School anime that the kids stayed after school to clean after classes; kids wiping the black boards, wiping and mopping floors and cleaning tables. To some of us, it was a new weird experience. And yes, it really happens in Japan. It has even been known that someone told a Japanese mother that in the USA their children did not clean the school and the Japanese mother was shocked to hear of this.

In Japan, it is part of the Japanese tradition that children do o-soji (cleaning). Now before you ask if Japanese schools do not have janitors, let’s explain. Japanese Schools do have non-cleaning staff called yomushuji (shuji for short). Shuji’s responsibilities include serving as crossing guards to help the children cross the road, cleaning and maintenance.

Many schools have cleaning systems, like example a school may have o-soji after lunch for 20 minutes. This may be only four days a week, excluding per example Wednesdays and Saturdays. Every class in the school may be responsible for their own class as well as two other places at the school, like the library or nurse’s office. Some schools may also have certain students to help the younger students clean up since younger kids are not as adept at cleaning, the younger they are.

Some may think it is child labour, but isn’t it actually that for as little as 20 minutes a day these children learn confidence and skills that might help them in adulthood, help them grow? The Japanese as a nation is very cleanliness-orientated and hygiene-driven, and efficiency is also an important part of who they are. In a culture where hard work is a virtue that is ingrained in the spirit since young, it makes a lot of sense.

What do these kids themselves think about cleaning duties in school? Let us have a look by watching this video. Please follow the link:

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