Japanese public schools do not employ janitors. The Japanese education system believes that requiring students to clean the school themselves teaches respect and responsibility.

One of the more intriguing results of making students responsible for maintaining a clean school is that with no janitors to clean up after them, students in Japan do not learn to look down on janitors and custodians. They believe cleaning to be a duty held by all. By having students clean schools themselves from a young age, students do not see themselves as “above” such work.

Casual school littering is something that is much rarer in Japanese schools. This creates a culture of ‘clean being the norm’. Leaving behind a mess is a sign of disrespect to fellow students. Cleaning time is also seen as conversation time with friends so it’s not considered a boring chore like in the West.

The culture spreads deeper too.

Japan has large food courts in malls much like everywhere else, but there’s are much cleaner. Dozens of tables, none of which are cleaned by a janitor. The moment you finish your food, you take your garbage to the recycling area where they also have wet clothes replaced every hour so you can go and wipe your table for the next person before you leave.

The only place where this backfires is the streets. You have everyone using the ridiculous amount of public bins on the streets in a culture where people buy lots of cheap vending machine snacks but do not finish them, you get rats. Tons of rats that used the bins as food havens.

There were too many bins in Tokyo a couple years ago and it caused a rat problem. So the mayor just got rid of 90% of them and now you usually have to take your garbage home with you. Of course people do it without argument, because they’ve been cleaning up after themselves since they’ve entered school.

Source: ehow, reddit, and Boston Public Library