Even If Their Team Loses, Japanese Fans Still Sweep The World Cup
It's common to hear of soccer hooligans taunting players and fighting in the stands. In Japan, though, it's a different story: Soccer followers there even have a tradition of cleaning up the stadium after matches. Melissa Block speaks with Japanese soccer fan Kei Kawai, who's attending Thursday's match between Japan and Greece.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Meanwhile, in the Northeastern coastal city of Natal, the stadium is a sea of blue as Japan takes on Greece. Fan Kei Kawai of Sendai, Japan, will be there in the stands to cheer on his national team, also known as the Samurai Blue.
FAN KEI KAWAI: We going to be wearing a uniform, and we going to be bringing a lot of stuff to cheer the team up, like towels, caps and hats and everything in blue. It's our team color, yeah.
BLOCK: And when you say the uniform, you're going to be wearing a jersey, right?
KAWAI: Yes, yes.
BLOCK: And is there one player in particular whose number you wear?
KAWAI: Number four - Honda. I'm rooting for him.
BLOCK: The star, right?
KAWAI: He is a star.
BLOCK: Kei Kawai and many other fans of team Japan will also be carrying something else that's blue - something that showed up after Japan's loss to Ivory Coast last weekend, surprising many others in the stands - blue, plastic garbage bags, which Japan's fans sometimes wear as rain ponchos or blow up into balloons and as Kei Kawai tells us, have another practical use as well.
KAWAI: First and foremost reason is to make it all blue - the stadium. We like to surround it in blue, but we seem to have another purpose as well.
BLOCK: And what's that purpose?
KAWAI: Yeah, so we will cleaning up after the game just to show respect to the host and just do it right.
BLOCK: So is this a tradition to go after the game and start cleaning up all the mess? Put it in trash bags?
KAWAI: Yeah, I think we have started this tradition a few games ago or a few World Cups ago. We try to do little bit of cleanup to show respect to the host country and just, you know, show off how clean things are in Japan. And we like to make it so here, too.
BLOCK: So to show respect for the host country and to basically set a good example?
KAWAI: Well, we don't really think it as a good example or not. We just wanted to do what feels right to us.
BLOCK: What feels right.
KAWAI: You know, we are all told in school that we clean up our things and when we come somewhere, we just clean up even better than when we come in.
BLOCK: Oh, you mean the idea is to leave it better, cleaner than when you got there?
KAWAI: Yeah. That's how we are told.
BLOCK: Now, when you clean up, are you cleaning up everybody's mess, not just your own?
KAWAI: Yeah, I mean, you know, not just ours but, like, when we are cleaning up we are just doing, like, a little bit more.
BLOCK: And you do this win or lose?
KAWAI: Yeah, win or lose. It doesn't matter.
BLOCK: Do you ever find something that is just so disgusting that you say, you know what, I can't clean that up. I'm going to leave that for the cleanup crew.
KAWAI: I am sure that, you know - we are not a professional cleanup crew with lots of stuff to carry. So, you know, we may leave something behind. And that's probably, like, you know, something people need to accept.
BLOCK: Yeah, you've got to have a limit, right?
KAWAI: Yeah, yeah.
BLOCK: You know, the image that we've seen is, you know, fastidious cleaning up, Japanese fans being incredibly polite. Are there Japanese fans who go another way? Are there Japanese hooligans in the soccer crowd?
KAWAI: No, well, you know, we are naturally like, you know, try to be nice and especially so when we are outside of our own country. But, like, you know, we do go crazy. We do yell. It's going to be like, Nippon, Nippon.
KAWAI: Yeah. And we're going to be yelling (Japanese spoken) - go for it - (Japanese spoken).
BLOCK: Well, Kei Kawai, have a great time at the game tonight. Thanks.
KAWAI: Thank you very much.
BLOCK: And I hope the cleanup goes well.
KAWAI: Oh, yeah. Thank you very much. We will clean it up.
BLOCK: That was Kei Kawai of Sendai, Japan, who's in Brazil for the World Cup to cheer on team Japan and help clean up after the matches. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.