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Just good manners

Apr 27,2018
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SEO SEUNG-WOOK
*The author is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo Japan.

On Sunday, a road around Sendai Station in Miyagi Prefecture was packed with more than 100,000 people from all over Japan. They gathered to watch a parade in honor of Yuzuru Hanyu, who won his second gold medal in Men’s Free Skating at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Gangwon.

The parade, which was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m., created so much excitement that local hotels, restaurants were fully booked. Even beauty parlors with a view of the street had taken reservations.

The neighborhood was crowded with a number of his fans even a day before the event.
Many of them stayed up all night on the street to bag the best spot to see him. They spread mats on the ground and ate lunch boxes so as not to lose their places.

To make things more difficult, an unexpected heatwave hit the region. The temperature shot up to 29.9 degrees Celcius (85 degrees Fahrenheit), the hottest April in recorded history in Japan.

Hanyu’s fans struggled under the hot sun. “I cannot stand a moment without a parasol and a cold beverage,” one fan cried. In fact, each and every fan had various cold drinks in their hands.

The parade lasted for 40 minutes and came to a successful end with the crowd cheering loudly.The crowd went wild as the skater performed for them, mimicking his successful routing at PyeongChang.

Yet when all the fuss was over, the street was impeccably clean. After nearly 110,000 people gathered in a frenzied celebration, I could not see any waste scattered on the road. A total of 990 people — 460 volunteers and 530 officials from Sendai City and Miyagi Prefecture — were already standing by to collect trash as the parade came to a close.

But what they found was only a small amount of waste, containable in 12 plastic bags. It was a marvelous ending when we take into account all the lunch boxes and beverages that had been consumed in that neighborhood under the hot April sun.

Japanese media outlets linked the remarkable result to a campaign by Hanyu fans on social media platforms to “collect all your waste and take it home.”

On Hanyu’s social network platform, an avalanche of messages — including “fans, way to go!” and “We also must learn from it!” — were posted.

A Chinese internet site dealing with information about Japan also saw a post saying, “Hanyu’s fans are really different!”
The number of plastic bags left behind by 110,000 Japanese spectators shows that a nation’s etiquette and integrity can hardly be built overnight.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 25, Page 29