Hygiene in the world: Japan

Japan is a country famous for technology, sushi and kimonos, but did you know that hygiene is also an essential part of its culture? 

In the sixth century Buddhism arrived in Japan, proposed by the King of Korea, bringing with it a respect for hygiene. This was the beginning of Japan’s clean culture and the sense that ‘clean is good’.

From a young age, children are taught to have respect for public property and to clean their classrooms at the end of the school day. This attitude is taken on into adult life and it is expected that people will clean the streets around their homes and offices every morning, making sure that the entire neighbourhood is presentable. Everyone is encouraged to take responsibility for the things they use, so if you read a paper on the train you should then take it home to dispose of it rather than leaving it behind.

These are all unwritten rules which are readily accepted by everyone and, unsurprisingly, this level of expectation extends to include personal hygiene too. Public baths are located around the country so that even the poorest citizens can keep clean. 

There is a particular bathing ritual in Japan which is called ‘ofuro’. This involves sitting on a stool and cleaning yourself, before entering the bath. This sounds a bit messy, but most Japanese bathrooms are designed as wet rooms so it doesn’t matter if water goes everywhere! The bath water is then kept for the next person to use, with a whole household often using the same water – efficiently saving time and energy as well as water.