By Jenifer Tull-Gauger

I have been told that there are no janitors in Japan.  Each family or person cleans up the sidewalk or common area in front of their house.  A teacher in Japan verified for me that at the end of the day, all of the students and teachers spend time cleaning up the school.

When I visited Okinawa, I saw, as I’d been told, that there were no trash cans on the sidewalks—no public garbage cans.  Stores and airports did have them, but depending on where you were going, you might not find a trash can.  Yet litter is not a problem in the areas where people travel every day.  Each person is responsible for taking care of their own garbage, even if that means holding on to it until they find the proper place to throw it out.

I saw that many of us American visitors had trouble with this concept.  Some seemed to not be able to plan ahead and keep a small bag handy for personal trash.  Many used the back of the car as a garbage can, not thinking about emptying it once we had access to proper disposal.

We could learn a lot from the Okinawans.  One, when you are done using something, the leftover trash does not just disappear.  Two, it is rude to push your trash off on other people to deal with.  Three, if you enjoy the use of an area, it is respectful and responsible to keep it clean.