TOKYO (XINHUA) – “When people misunderstand you, don’t argue. Prove yourself with doing instead of talking,” Chinese girl Aya said in an interview with Xinhua about her long-standing volunteer practice of collecting garbage in the streets of Japan.
Aya, who has been in Japan for more than 10 years, runs two Sichuan spicy hot pot restaurants in Japan, including one near Nishikawaguchi station in Saitama Prefecture. There are many Chinese-owned shops near the station, and the area is known locally as Chinatown.
In recent years, the Japanese media, when reporting on the vitality these shops have brought to the local economy, have also expressed concerns about the littering problem.
Shortly after Aya opened her restaurant near the station in 2017, some Japanese media came to interview her about littering. “I don’t throw rubbish, and it’s not always Chinese who do. But without arguing, I told the reporters I would organise people to clean up,” she said.
Aya wrote a long proposal and sent it to the Chinese restaurants and shops nearby, hoping that people could work together to improve the sanitation. The proposal was sent out, but received no response.
“Whether others want to do it or not, now that I have made the initiative, I will do it myself first,” Aya said. In February 2018, Aya took to the streets and started picking up litter. In the first half year, she acted alone and encountered many people’s incomprehension. But she kept on and was out on the streets between 4pm and 5pm on the first Saturday of every month.
Over time, what Aya did was gradually understood by more and more people. Many local Chinese volunteers joined her to clean up garbage, hoping to work together to maintain a clean environment in the neighbourhood.
Now the volunteer team has grown to more than 200 people. From Nishikaguchi to Ikebukuro, and from Uano to Yokohama, they regularly organise cleaning activities in commercial districts with overseas Chinese shops. “Our team was named ‘shining squad’ and we gave our volunteers vests with a panda logo on them. Panda is the symbol of China, and the Japanese love it, too. I hope that more and more Japanese people will love China,” Aya said.
Through the persistent efforts of Aya and other volunteers, the sanitation situation around Nishikawaguchi has improved significantly. Their volunteer activities have also attracted the attention of Japanese media. After watching the media reports, many Japanese viewers sent Aya postcards and letters to express their gratitude and support.
“For many times, we’ve had Japanese people pull up in front of us and say, ‘Thank you for your hard work.’
When some volunteers took their children here to pick up litter together, some Japanese elderlies would lovingly touch the children’s heads, give the thumbs up and say, ‘That’s great.’
“These experiences warm our hearts and make us feel that our efforts paid off,” Aya said.