Warriors against Trash
Citizen Ship
Posted: January 01, 2024
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    Keisuke Naka and Ikki Goto pose for a photograph in Tokyo, Japan, on November 1, 2023. They are part of the “trash-picking samurai” group.” (Reuters/Issei Kato)
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    Keisuke Naka and Ikki Goto pick up trash in a parking lot in Tokyo, Japan. (Reuters/Issei Kato)
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    The samurai attract attention with their stylish moves. (Reuters/Issei Kato)
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    The street performers hope to make people smile and notice litter. (Reuters/Issei Kato)
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    The performers use their tongs like swords. (Reuters/Issei Kato)
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Samurai roam the streets of Tokyo, Japan.

Samurai (SAM-uh-reye) were warriors in medieval Japan. So what are they doing back on the streets today? Aren’t they hundreds of years too late?

They’re not real samurai. They’re garbage collectors! They carry tongs instead of swords. They don fedora hats and denim kimonos. Watch them toss litter into baskets on their backs with flourish.

The samurai are street performers. Their group is known as the “trash-picking samurai.” And they have grown popular. More than 800,000 viewers follow members’ adventures on social media. Their videos feature epic music, dramatic camera effects, and the fighters’ stylish moves.

Keisuke Naka clears an area under a large “No Littering” sign. “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,” he says.

Japan is famous for its cleanliness. But is it really clean? Mr. Naka says not exactly. He has been a trash-picking samurai for seven years. He gathers empty cans, plastic bottles, and cigarette butts.

Naruhito Miyasaka is a college student who grew up nearby. He says the trash problem was once so bad that people saw rats scampering in the trash at night.

Junya Kakihara, a restaurant owner, says the performances led him to pay more attention to the problem. “I tell people not to litter when they are about to do so,” he explains.

God wants us to help others. Consider: How can you serve the people around you?

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. — Matthew 5:16

Why? Doing good and making people smile are activities worth celebrating.

For more about tackling waste, see Trash Origami by Michael G. LaFosse in our Recommended Reading.