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Monday, 05 June, 2017, 09 : 30 AM [IST]

Lessons from ‘Swachh Japan’ for Incredible India

If national cleanliness should not be the tourism industry’s direct focus who else should be more bothered?
India, as a nation, can take quite a few tips from Japan especially when it comes to certain aspects of tourism. On a recent visit to Japan, I discovered how the country is attempting to change itself, be more open and most of all, dispel the myth of the inscrutable and introverted Japanese which is fed mostly by a western-controlled media.

It is the people of Japan, right in the streets, who are leading this. Of course there must be a government initiated plan, but the public response is evident. There is always a big noise about how it is the people who influence impressions and are real ambassadors, but nowhere is it more evident than it is in Japan. India might not have the language problems of communication, but the Japanese simply being themselves do more for tourism.

It’s face it, the stink can be so overpowering that it hurts the best of tourism promotion efforts. Unfortunately, the tourism industry, like the rest of businesses in India, thinks cleanliness is a government issue and responsibility.

Here is where Japan wins hands down. Its clean cities are due to the public attitudes drilled from childhood. Even visitors from the first-world are taken aback by the near complete absence of waste bins in most cities and even at tourism sites. Despite this dichotomy there is no clutter on the streets.

The reason is that people in the country do not ‘expect’ others and that includes the government authorities, to take care of their waste. Where else do you find children cleaning their own schools?

The only time one sees neatly packed waste bags is a little before midnight when shopkeepers place their waste before their shops and establishments for some centralised waste collection.

The sheer absence of littering is not dependent on hefty fines, but a social understanding that waste is one’s own business. The clue comes out when you discover petty shopkeepers take back ice cream cups or paper plates themselves. There is an understanding that the immediate area surrounding anyone’s personal space at work is that person’s own responsibility.

It is true that good infrastructure does influence behavioural change, but the yob-like mentality is conspicuous by its absence.

The main blot on Indian tourism is the avoidable squalor which is so pervading at almost every place in the country. The industry in India has to get more proactive in this regard. The habit of complaining and not doing something about it has got to go.

Anurag Yadav
Industry Expert

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.
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