A byte of life from the Land of Sumos and Sushi

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I recently realised that I’ve been in Japan for almost a year and a half, yet I’ve never documented the phenomenon of “Soji” or cleaning. Everyday, at around 3:30, all students spend about 15 minutes cleaning the school. There are no professional cleaners in Japanese schools, and students are always surprised and jealous to hear that students in most other countries don’t have to clean their place of study.

However, I think soji is quite a good idea, as it instils a sense of responsibility for your tidying up after yourself at an early age. Though I’m not sure about kindergartens, I can tell you that from primary (elementary) school age and up, all students participate in this daily ritual, until they leave high school at the age of 18.

In my school, the trigger for soji is a certain song that comes blasting out over the P.A system, marking the time for students to collect at their allocated area, (any where from the classrooms to the corridors), grab a broom, mop or duster, and get to work. Amusingly, at my school the cleaning time music is none other than the Village People’s Y.M.C.A.

The downside to soji is the often dubious quality of work that the students produce. The key to soji seems to be making sure that you look like you’re cleaning, whilst actually performing the minimum amount of work. One trick I’ve noticed students use, is to clean the same small area, over and over again; the ever present smell in the toilets suggests cleaning skills could be improved.

Cleaning details are allocated randomly and remain the same for a whole term. The most sought after position is the staff room, as it’s normally fairly clean anyway, plus it’s heated in winter, and air conditioned in summer, and the short straw is obviously the toilets.

During soji, I either lend a hand here and there with a duster or brush, or I head for the kennel and take Shiro the school dog for a long walk, around the rice paddies.

It’s a dog’s life.


Post a Comment

<< Home