Comic: Cleaning in America VS Japan

YB_2_22 comic comics life in japan texan in tokyo cartoon

Growing up in America, schools hired janitors. That was normal. When I went to school in Ghana, the schools also hired janitors.

As far as I knew, that’s what schools, offices, and every other building full of people did – they hired janitors.

When I came to Japan, I learned that schools here don’t necessarily hire janitors. Children are put on rotation for cleaning duties, such as sweeping floors, wiping windows, and scrubbing the bathroom floors.

I always joke that’s why Ryosuke’s so much better at cleaning than I am. He has more practice.

(and, of course, since he’s better at it, he should be the one doing it, right? Haha)


Like these comics? Check out my comic books (on Amazon):

My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy: The Comic Book


My Japanese Husband (still) Thinks I’m Crazy


Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

31 Comments on Comic: Cleaning in America VS Japan

  1. Millenniumabyss // 3 September, 2015 at 1:25 pm //

    Actually, even though I grew up in the U.S, my elementary school had the students clean the classrooms. It was a Montessori school. Montessori schools are private schools, but the whole idea is to make kids self-sufficient. Come to think of it we also removed shoes and slippers in class too. I don’t know if the Montessouri school model still has this, but I have loads of year book pictures of tiny me with the rest of the classmates in the early 90’s cleaning up, and tromping about the classroom in slippers.
    Public Middle School was a culture shock!

  2. Here in Canada, Québec school hire janitor. I remember when i was in primary we clean the blackboard but one kid per month something like this…

  3. They clean in Japan, but from what I saw from my students and my Japanese friends, they are pretty poor at doing it. My kids used to swish around a dirty, cold rag and call that cleaning. Then, a few years ago I was living with a Japanese girl in Germany and she just didn’t get cleaning science at all. Things like having to wash the floor with hot water (not just cold water). She also didn’t understand that you can’t cook meat and then leave it on the side (not the fridge) and keep eating it for 5 days without getting sick…

  4. Brad Walker // 8 June, 2015 at 11:07 am //

    Last year(?) Newt Gingrich made headlines when he suggested American students clean their schools.

    Everyone thought he was out-of-touch and classist.

    I thought, “I didn’t know he was a manga fan.”

  5. I’m from the U.S., and we had janitors in my high school. When I was in Ecuador as an exchange student, we had janitors there too, but there were a few days where the kids would be expected to clean the school. It was kinda fun as I remember, because those days only had half a day of classes (maybe, sometimes not even that!) and then we would clean for the second half of the day. If we got done with our assigned tasks early, we were allowed to hang out and talk with our friends until it was time to go home, or play basketball or Ecuavolley or soccer. It was difficult though, because the school itself wasn’t as weather proofed as schools are in the U.S., so leaves and spiders would come in under the door and it just never got nearly as clean as it would have been in the U.S. (my school was interesting, and not at all a typical Ecuadorian school in terms of building structure… Classrooms were individual buildings and there were tons of green areas). I don’t know if these cleaning days were normal in Ecuador, or just something my school did. It was nice though.

  6. I think it’s great for the kids to learn to clean and learn responsibility by being force to clean in school. BUT, you forgot to mention the punchline, where Japanese schools are always filthy. Kids clean, but they don’t clean well. I think they should get a cleaning company in here at least once every few weeks to pick up the slack, but it doesn’t happen. Also, I’m 99% sure they don’t use any kind of cleaner for the toilets, just run water over the floor and push it around with brush/mop things.

  7. Of course, like Japan, children clean themselves at school in Korea. It’s same thing in that country, too.

  8. My husband is from the Dominican Republic and grew up with maids. I grew up doing the dishes. I maintain that this is why he is terrible at cleaning up after himself in the house.

  9. Not only schools, but many workplaces as well. I’ve worked in large offices where even the big boss man cleans alongside the lowest salaryman. I like seeing this. In America, by hiring janitors, we teach class distinction. “Only the poor lower class cleans. Richer people don’t have to clean – let the lesser people do that.” It would be far better if we adopted the Japanese model.

  10. Eh, I don’t mind the idea of students cleaning the school, heck, even as a punishment (if you caused a huge mess then it makes sense to have you clean it, right? over here we had that happen a few times when I used to go to school :P), I just don’t like when it’s used for abuse (like once a year there seems to be some news about some teacher that forced students to clean toilets with their bare hands or something like that, that definitely is bad and only makes things worse).

  11. Richard Solomon // 3 June, 2015 at 10:09 pm //

    Having grown up in the USA I never cleaned my school. Some parents here would object as would the janitorial staff but I think it’d be great for kids here in the USA to do it. It would teach them a good lesson about the value of ‘hard work’ and maybe get them more invested in their education.

  12. Philip Ebbrell // 3 June, 2015 at 2:32 pm //

    Same here in UK, we would hire caretakers (janitors). My daughters who board do have to keep their room, flat or house tidy.They seem to forget this at home……

  13. I totally think if American kids had to clean their own schools you’d see a lot less vandalism…

  14. I experienced that in 6th grade. It was the first year for a private school, and it was housed in a small church building. Every Friday, we’d pair up and spend the last hour of school cleaning everything and setting up the chairs in the auditorium. My least favourite to do was clean the bathrooms. Even if we cleaned them perfectly, everyone would go in there to wash up after they finished cleaning and get water EVERYWHERE :/ .

  15. It’s the same in Taiwan. Students clean the school.

  16. Interestingly, in my country (Philippines), schools hired janitors but only to clean the general school surroundings. The students all had fixed classrooms for the entire year so we were divided into five groups so one group is in charge of cleaning a specific school day ;) I was almost always a Wednesday Cleaner! (The worse group to be in is the Friday Cleaner; you just want to go home and enjoy the weekend!)

  17. Yeah, my Japanese-American boys got this when going to their Japanese schools. But clean up at home? It just doesn’t happen! They’re too “busy” with baseball and supposedly being a student.

  18. It is good , it makes them think twice before making a mess somewhere. In France a lot of people say “I am not the maid” like it is a bad thing to clean up after yourself lol

  19. Shingo Nakatani // 3 June, 2015 at 11:42 am //

    Yes, as far as I know, it’s a very big practice for kids to learn how to clean their own mess, which means that they should know not to make mess in the first place (less mess, less cleaning/work and more mess, more cleaning/work).

    BTW, in Japan, kids are also in charge of distributing lunch as well, and they have lessons to learn how to cook…

    So if kids do not learn how to cook in their school in America, you might be able to use same logic to say “I am not good at cooking, as we did not learn cooking in school, but you (Japanese) should cook as you learnt cooking in your school”…???



  20. I RELATE TO THIS (ˊo̶̶̷ᴗo̶̶̷`)੭✧
    Thats why my boyfriend always cleans my bathtub for me…cuz I suck at cleaning it. When we move in together he’s already claimed to take charge of it ;D

  21. In my school there is a janitor who cleans teacher’s bathroom. They wash it everyday, which is nice. However, I discovered they washed the toilet seats as well and close them wet, which is not great when you sit down.

  22. I went to school in Ukraine and two kids on duty had to clean the classroom after classes. Somehow most students managed to slack off and our monitor had to clean up almost every day by herself. That wasn’t fair!

    • I’m from Ukraine and wanted to write the same thing. =) And the worst thing was that each class had assigned classrooms, but you still had to change classrooms for each class. Every teacher would always want us to clean up everything after the lesson. My last two years in school I was forced to be a monitor, and I would always get scolded because of those idiotic cleaning duties. I tried to ignore it most of the time and just cleaned the blackboard and sometimes swept the floors. Cleaning 7 classrooms in one day? No, thank you.

  23. Oh, American kids should absolutely follow the Japanese model. If kids aren’t responsible for cleaning up their own mess, they won’t bother to learn NOT to make a mess.

    If a kid has to give up free time to clean up their spit and trash, most will learn to use a trash can. (Not all. Some kids are just contrary little buggers.)

  24. lakerzombie // 3 June, 2015 at 9:41 am //

    Americans are messy. Just no other nice way to put it. I like the idea of cleaning up after yourself. Wish more people would do it. Its a chore for sure but I feel like its a good habit to have when occupying a space that isn’t yours. Now ones home dwelling….thats a different beast…

  25. I like your logic! XD

  26. I remember that in Karate. Also, my when my mom was in Japan from K-12, she said she and her classmates would get a rag (zokin), bend over and run across the floor: Thank goodness I wasn’t in Japan

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