TRASH collectors in samurai costumes took to Tokyo’s streets on Wednesday, theatrically wielding garbage tongs and flicking litter left from an evening of Halloween revelry into wicker baskets on their backs.
Dressed in hats and boldly patterned black-and-white tunics, the group, known as Gomihiroi Samurai, or trash-picking samurai, has attracted a large fan base since it formed in 2006, with nearly 800,000 followers on video-sharing platform TikTok.
“If people are paying attention to our performance because they think it’s fun, they might as well start paying attention to the trash problem itself,” said one of the group, Keisuke Naka, as he cleared the area under a large sign reading “No Littering.”
While Japan is famed overseas for its cleanliness, that image is only partly true, added Mr. Naka, a trash-picking samurai for seven years, as he gathered empty beer cans, plastic bottles and cigarette butts in a district known for its nightlife.
Occasions such as Halloween leave a lot of trash, as street drinking has become common in bustling areas and tourist spots, Mr. Naka said.
Residents of the area say the trash-picking samurai have made a difference.
Naruhito Miyasaka, a college student who grew up and lives around the area where Naka was collecting rubbish, said the trash problem had previously been so bad that people might see rats scampering amid the garbage at night.
Junya Kakihara, a restaurant owner, said the performances led him to pay more attention to the problem, adding, “I tell people not to litter when they are about to do so.” — Reuters