Cleanest house in the world

5 Cleanest Places on Earth

Her cleaning hand is so fast, it defies photography.

As a child when you were forced to clean your room, you probably grabbed a duster and begrudgingly waved it at the furniture. Cleaning would have been less of a chore if you’d been given a turbo-molecular pump and a fusion reactor. What child wouldn’t want the ability to create temperatures up to 10,000 times hotter than the sun?

Don’t drop it!

These aforementioned technological wonders are just some of the fantastic tools used to create the cleanest places on planet Earth.

5. Class 1 Cleanroom

A cleanroom is an enclosed space that has a controlled level of particles within it. Typically used in manufacturing or scientific research, where any pollutants such as dust, microbes or vapours could damage the products or affect experiments, cleanrooms are unsurprisingly incredibly clean places.

Both rooms are equally creepy.

In a typical urban environment an average cubic metre of air contains 35 million particles larger than 0.5 micrometres. In a Class 1 cleanroom (US FED STD) only 2.5 particles, larger than 0.5 micrometres each, are per cubic metre of air. So this class of cleanroom is, on average, 14 million times cleaner than the world outside of your window

What would your mother think?

To achieve this ridiculously high level of cleanliness, hermetically sealed rooms are fitted with numerous air filters through which the air is pumped. The room can only be accessed via a series of decontamination procedures such as air showers and airlocks. People working inside a cleanroom are required to be completely covered in special protective clothing so that they don’t contaminate the area, the filthy devils.


4. Vacuum Chamber

If your research requires complex 6-axis XYZ manipulators and linear translators with optional electron beam heating and Helium cooled cryostats then you’ll definitely need a vacuum chamber.

Do not climb inside.

Vacuum chambers are sealed enclosures from which all the air has been pumped out. The resulting low pressure, commonly referred to as a vacuum, is used by researchers to carry out physical experiments or test mechanical devices without the results being contaminated by foreign bodies.

This is not a clean vacuum chamber.

Ultra-high vacuum chambers can create atmospheres containing as little as 100 particles per cubic centimeter. An average cubic centimeter of air contains as many as 10 trillion particles. This means that an ultra-high vacuum chamber can create an environment one hundred billion times cleaner than the air you are currently breathing (unless you’re reading this from a space station).

3. The Centre of the Earth

According to Jules Verne’s 1864 science fiction novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the interior of our planet is populated by dinosaurs, giants and prehistoric mushrooms. Unfortunately for Verne this isn’t the case and instead the majority of the planet’s core is akin to a blast furnace.

A hard shell with a gooey centre.

Below the Earth’s outer silicate solid crust lies a highly viscous mantle, then a liquid outer core, and finally a solid inner core. At the core the pressure is 3.5 million times stronger than the pressure we feel on the surface. At the centre of the earth temperatures can reach over 6000 degrees Celsius, hotter than the surface of the sun.

The Sun is pretty cool, comparatively.

Nothing but solidified iron and nickel in gigantic crystal formations can exist down here. So if you could survive it (which you couldn’t unless you’re Superman) you wouldn’t find a single particle of dirt.

2. Fusion Reactor

The centre of the Earth is pretty hot, and, by extension immaculately clean, but that is nothing compared to the heat that a fusion reactor can produce. Temperatures exceeding 15 million degrees Celsius have been recorded inside a fusion reactor, which is 30,000 times hotter than the surface of the sun.

Science has style.

It was hoped that fusion power would be the future of energy production. It has been over 60 years since experiments began and still no reliable reactor has been created. It is estimated that the use of fusion as a commercially viable energy source may not be likely for another 50 years.

This prediction was also made in the 1960’s (around 50 years ago).

To get to the past, you’ll have to do a U-turn.

For the time being, the cost of developing a fusion reactor means that it is prohibitively expensive for most industries; hopefully the future will bring more affordable means of obtaining this form of energy. The proliferation of fusion power would make the world (statistically at least) a much cleaner place.

1. Large Hadron Collider

The cleanest place on Earth is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Built by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, this colossal collider took 10 years to complete and sits beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva.

He better hope that isn’t a Decepticon in disguise.

Not only is the LHC the largest machine in the world, the most sophisticated supercomputer in the world, the most sensitive detector in the world and the fastest racetrack in the world, it also contains some of the hottest and coldest places in our solar system.

Super Mario would love this.

If this list didn’t make it special enough it is also the cleanest place on Earth. Inside the LHC is the emptiest space in our solar system. The experiments conducted within the LHC require it to have as few extraneous particles as possible. The ultra high vacuum creates a cavity as empty as interplanetary space, which is as clean as you can get, in our galaxy anyway.


Extreme heat or an extreme vacuum are the parameters required to create the cleanest places on Earth. However this doesn’t mean that if you have to tidy up you should set about creating a fusion reactor in an airtight container. That would be an extremely dangerous (and more importantly) costly way to clean. Instead why not save yourself the time and the risk of disintegration, and call some professional cleaners?

The Cleanest House in the World – Easdale Bed and Breakfast

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At SOS Cleanroom, it’s pretty fair to say that we’re captivated by all things clean. Without proper cleanrooms around the world, our modern society simply wouldn’t have many of the products and technology that we often take for granted in our day to day lives. From your child’s clean bedroom (it’s a pain to ask them to clean it, but who doesn’t enjoy a straightened up bedroom?) to intricate electronic parts manufacturing, cleaning standards vary but our passion for keeping things as clean as possible remains the same.

Our Passionate For Cleanliness Knows No Bounds

That’s why SOS Cleanroom carries many different cleanroom products for your company, including useful items like cleanroom wipers, cleanroom swabs, sticky mats, sterile nitrile gloves, and countless other cleanroom stationery. Curious about what Specialty Optical Systems Cleanroom can do for your cleanroom manufacturing business? Get in contact with us here or, of course, feel free to shop our online cleanroom supply store.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to look at some of the cleanest places on Earth, because we’re really intrigued by clean things and places. Continue reading on below to keep it clean.

A Class 1 Cleanroom

Of course we had to begin with what’s most familiar to us. Cleanrooms are unsurprisingly clean places, and they are typically used in manufacturing or scientific research, where any pollutants such as dust, microbes or vapours could damage products or adversely affect experiments.

Allow us to put into context just how clean a Class 1 cleanroom really is: In a typical urban environment, an average cubic meter of air contains 35 million particles larger than 0.5 micrometers. A Class 1 cleanroom (US FED STD), only 2.5 particles, larger than 0.5 micrometers a piece, exist per cubic meter of air. Yes, you’re comparing 35 million particles to less than three. This means that this class of cleanrooms is, on average, 14 million times cleaner than the outside world!

Vacuum Chambers

Are you currently working on an experiment that involves complex 6-axis XYZ manipulators and linear translators with optional electron beam heating and Helium cool cryostats? No? Well, if you were, then you would probably need a vacuum chamber.

Vacuum chambers are sealed enclosures from which all of the air has been pumped out. The resulting low pressure, commonly referred to as a vacuum, is used by researchers to carry out physical experiments or test mechanical devices without the results being contaminated by foreign bodies.

Ultra-high vacuum chambers can create atmospheres containing as little as 100 particles per cubic centimeter (for reference, an average cubic centimeter of air contains as many as 10 trillion particles). This means that an ultra-high vacuum chamber can create an environment one hundred billion times cleaner than the air you’re currently breathing. Just make sure not to hop inside of a vacuum chamber, because that situation could turn ugly pretty quickly.

The Center Of The Earth

Is the core of the Earth really filled with dinosaurs, giants and prehistoric mushrooms as Jules Verne’s 1864 science fiction novel Journey to the Center of the Earth portrayed? Unfortunately, no, but the vast majority of the planet’s core is similar to a blast furnace. Below the Earth’s outer silicate solid crust lies a highly viscous mantle, and then a liquid outer core.

Finally, as you go deeper (it is physically impossible to actually travel this deep into the Earth, but you get the idea), you would find a solid inner core. At the core exists a pressure that is 3.5 million times stronger than the pressure we feel on the Earth’s surface. Temperatures can reach upward of 6,000 degrees Celsius at the center of the Earth, which is actually hotter than the surface of the sun – talk about a scorcher.

So, nothing but solidified iron and nickel in massive crystal formations can possibly exist deep in the center of our planet. As such, there isn’t a single particle of dirt, so it’s nice to know that the Earth keeps things clean where no human (Superman notwithstanding) could ever visit.

Maintain Your Cleanroom With SOS!

We didn’t even get to fusion reactors or the Large Hadron Collider (it’s absolutely fascinating), but there are definitely many places in the world where things have been engineered to be incredibly clean. We only deal with cleanrooms, and our cleanroom products are a perfect match for your company. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to shop our cleanroom gloves, cleanroom garments, cleanroom sticky mats and more!

Trouble in the World’s Best Cleanroom?

Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a pathogenic bacterial species in the family Mycobacteriaceae and the causative agent of most cases of tuberculosis

In the contamination-control industry, we all understand the importance of and difference in ISO classes. These global standards were devised and adopted when the U.S. General Service Administrations standards – then known as FS209E – were no longer adequate in categorizing the growing specifications in cleanroom technology. From the original six classes of the FS209E, an additional two ‘cleaner’ standards were incorporated into the new ISO system, along with one ‘dirtier’ standard, and the system of ISO Classes 1 through 9 in use today was born.

But did you know that there is a standard of cleanroom that is superior to even the cleanest ISO cleanroom? Welcome to the world of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, or NEIDL…

NEIDL is more than just a lab. It’s a national network of high-security facilities with one sole remit: to study emerging (or reemerging) infections with an aim of developing diagnostic tests, treatments and eventually vaccines to combat them. As the most advanced incarnation of the cleanroom in existence, NEIDL facilities are designed to operate as fully self-contained units. Not only do they boast their own air filtration systems but also incorporate self-contained decontamination and waste disposal systems. According to one facility based at Boston University in Massachusetts, the air leaving the NEIDL facility is actually cleaner and more pure than when it came in. And, of course, it goes without saying that all of these critical systems have backups and redundancies, making failover a piece of cake.

What could possibly go wrong?

Given that the aforementioned NEIDL unit at BU was engaged in research on strains of the highly virulent tuberculosis bacteria, this should be a rhetorical question. When dealing with pathogens like tuberculosis or indeed ebola (see our earlier article on ebola and the issue of strike-through in contamination-control garments) there simply is no room for mistakes or errors. It should go without saying that quarantining the bacteria within a confined, secured area is critical to public safety. Unfortunately for the researchers involved on the Boston campus, however, it did need to be said…

In a singularly concise piece published in the Boston Herald on June 2nd, we were interested to see a report of a partial shutdown of the NEIDL’s ventilation monitoring system which resulted in a suspension of research.(1) Per university guidelines, an external engineering contractor was brought in to perform a review and BU was forced to acknowledge what could have become a catastrophic malfunction. In what might seem a mundane incident were it not for the potential consequences, a malfunctioning network switch led to a restriction in air flow between two of the labs actively working on the live TB pathogen. Given that the problem also caused exhaust fans to power down, air pressure increased within the labs to a dangerous level, necessitating an immediate suspension of activity. As of publication date research in these two labs has not yet recommenced. According to a report in the Boston Globe, the secure freezers housing the TB pathogens were not affected by the malfunction and Boston’s public health commission was quick to issue a statement that public health was at no time compromised.(2) Boston University is awaiting a full report into the incident but preliminary findings seem to indicate a need for improvement of the system that controls air supply in the event that exhaust fans cease working.

News of this recent incident was of grave concern in many sectors. Flags were raised within the contamination-control industry and those living close to the university’s medical school which houses the NEIDL also shared an understandable level of concern. But it is what this incident revealed on a broader level that was of particular interest to many observers. Although Boston University followed the correct protocol in its immediate response, it chose not to inform the public of the incident for some time.

And this decision echoes what appears to be a disturbing trend in the bio-medical research industry. According to a Center for Disease Control (CDC) advisory committee report issued in 2015, many research personnel feel increased pressure to keep accidents or mistakes secret. Even from their immediate supervisors. Co-chaired by Dr. Kenneth Berns, the committee’s report noted a shift towards regarding protocol lapses and safety breaches as constituting a danger to the continued operation of a lab, with both individuals and teams reluctant to report them for fear of causing trouble. In a statement by Local 2883 American Federation of Government Employees representative Pam Gilbertz, concerns were raised that research personnel who reported safety issues risked being branded as ‘troublemakers.’ She went on to comment that “once you’re identified as a troublemaker your career is shot at CDC.”(3)

And another troubling picture emerged from the report – a culture in which the greatest safety threats are perceived as coming solely from outside the agency. To illustrate this point, when a CDC lab accidentally shipped a contaminated flu virus to Athens, Greece, the greatest concern was not that a researcher had failed to clean their workstation between handling two strains of flu virus, resulting in the cross-contamination of a relatively benign strain with the deadly H5N1 avian flu. Nor was it that – in feeling pressured to produce results – workers had taken shortcuts. But rather, the main worry was the potential violation of federal select agency rules – protocols put in place to ensure that such materials do not fall into the hands of unfriendly agents. In other words, the hands of terrorists.

In a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dr. Joseph Kanabrocki, Associate Vice President for Research Safety at the University of Chicago, is on record as saying that in the post 9/11 reality, emphasis has shifted from lab safety to protecting against theft: “Safety concerns are secondary,” he’s quoted as saying.

And given the types of material housed at the CDC – an agency considered the nation’s greatest authority on the correct handling of deadly pathogens – this complacency is ominous. In the aftermath of the critical review and concerned statements by Members of Congress it remains to be seen what steps the agency will take to dismantle the creeping culture of reticence to speak out. Promises have been made and we will be interested to see what changes are put into place.

Do you have thoughts on the challenges faced by the CDC? If so, we’d love to read them here!

She’s the Cleanest Person in the World

I’m far from a clean person. In fact, I drive my fiancée insane with how messy I am. I’ve always been like this and I think many others can relate.

I’ve tried spending a whole day cleaning things up, but no matter what I do, my surroundings always end up cluttered, as if a whirlwind had randomly appeared inside my apartment.

Over time, I accepted that this is just the type of person I am and will just have to deal with it.

Until I met Marie Kondo.

This woman has single-handedly changed the way I approach cleaning — and I’m not the only one. Her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” (2010), has sold over 6 million copies worldwide. In 2015, Kondo was listed as one of Time’s “100 most influential people”.

But even then, I still wasn’t sure whether she was the real deal. So we introduced her book to my fiancée’s sister, who’s known in the family for her untidiness. After reading her book, the results below speak for themselves.

The kicker? It’s been MONTHS since and she hasn’t relapsed to her old ways at all — and so do the many others who call themselves “Konverts”.

Kondo discovered her passion for tidying up when she was 5 years old. During elementary school, she would often be found in the classroom organizing bookshelves while her classmates played outside.

“Every day after school, my favorite thing was to tidy up, which meant that I continued to throw things away everyday in the house,” Kondo told NextShark. “It lead to me to forget the importance of appreciating objects.”

This experience put Kondo under a lot of stress. She was judging objects based on how old and dirty it looked, admitting that she was finding anything wrong with the objects and throwing them away. Kondo became so stressed out that she passed out at one point in class during high school.

“When I woke up from that, I realized my way of tidying up was all wrong,” she said.

“Up until then, I was looking for things to throw away, but what was actually important were things that I kept.

“Out of all the things I own, I just needed to select and keep the ones that make me happy or spark joy by having them around. That’s when I realized that it was important to cherish my belongings.”

Kondo’s epiphany became the groundwork for her approach to cleaning. Instead of simply finding reasons to throw things away, she started judging objects based on whether it “sparked joy”. If it did, she’d keep it — if not, she’d throw it out. However, she advises people to not get too caught up with the meaning of “spark joy”.

“When you hold an object, feel how your body is feeling — whether your body is feeling happy or not,” she said. “When you imagine your future self holding the object, see if the feeling of happiness emerges. Acknowledging your your senses and feeling through objects is a key.”

At 18, Kondo got a part-time job as a maiden at a Shinto shrine. Her job was to keep everything clean and work the register.

“When you go to a shrine and pass the gateway, you feel refreshed and may wonder why,” she explained. “The reason is because it’s always been tidied up and cleaned with care. I think that you can turn your house into that similar space.”

She worked there for the next five years while studying sociology in college. During that time, she wrote a thesis titled “How to Declutter Your Apartment — From a Sociological Perspective”. Eventually, she became a consultant, where she’d help others tidy up their homes.

Her business was a huge success. Kondo got so many clients that she racked up month-long waiting-lists. In 2010, Kondo decided to write a book to make her methods more accessible. She wrote “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” in just three months and published it that very year.

Sales were modest up until 2011, when Japan was hit with a 9.1 earthquake and tsunami — the strongest earthquake to ever hit Japan, which took nearly 20,000 lives and caused $300 million in damages. While this was a terrible tragedy that affected the entire country, it had somewhat of a silver lining for Marie Kondo.

“The Japanese people suddenly had to ask themselves what was important in their lives,” Tomohiro Takahashi, Marie Kondo’s editor, told The Cut in a 2015 interview. “What was the true value of sentimental items? What was the meaning of the items they’d lost? What was the meaning of life?”

From then on, Kondo’s book exploded, putting the “KonMarie” brand on the map. Since then, Marie Kondo, now 32, has built an empire and regularly flies around the world giving talks and making television appearances.

Like many people in Japan, Kondo is influenced by Shintoism, a Japanese way of life which believes in animism, the notion that animate and inanimate objects have spirits or souls that are worshipped. However, experts argue that animism in Shintoism is now outdated.

In Kondo’s case, the first thing she does when she enters a client’s home for the first time is to take about two minutes to greet the house, while stating her name, birthday, and job title. Before she takes the stage at a talk, she greets the place she’s in and introduces herself. She believes that these rituals will make her job easier and smoother.

Additionally, she teaches her clients to thank the objects for their services before throwing them away, regardless of what kind of feelings they spark. Her practice of treating her belongings as if they were alive started when she was in high school. According to an excerpt in her book:

“I know some people find it hard to believe that inanimate objects respond to human emotion, and it could indeed just have been coincidence. Still, we often hear about athletes who take loving care of their sports gear, treating it almost as if it were sacred. I think the athletes instinctively sense the power of these objects. If we treated all things we use in our daily life, whether it is our computer, our handbag, or our pens and pencils, with the same care that athletes give to their equipment, we could greatly increase the number of dependable ‘supporters’ in our lives. The act of possessing is a very natural part of our daily life, not something reserved for some special match or contest.”

See also Ryan General·November 8, 2018

Hearing the words “tidying up” can be overwhelming for someone who isn’t used to being tidy, but Kondo advises that a shift in your mindset could change things entirely.

“I don’t want you to think of it as just cleaning the house, but rather a life-changing project to find out what’s truly important to you,” she said

“In KonMari method, what we primarily focus on is to choose what sparks joy. Whatever you have in the house, evaluate them individually and ask yourself if this particular object makes you happy or sparks joy.”

“Having a mindset like ‘this will make my life so much better’ will make tidying more effective,” she added.

As far as the exact practices to keep in mind when you begin your tidying adventure, Kondo has a few tips:

FOLD your clothes, don’t hang

Hanging your clothes is not efficient and often takes up a lot of space. Kondo advises that folding your clothes in a dresser will make your clothes “happier”. She credits this notion to te-ate, the Japanese word for healing, which literally means “apply hands”. It’s based on the traditional belief that applying hands on an injury will promote healing. Marie Kondo believes that the act of folding transmits positive energies into the clothing.

Store things upright

Folding clothes and storing them upright will allow you to easily see all the colors you own in one go to avoid buying duplicates. In addition, folding and storing your clothes properly will also prevent wrinkles.

Get rid of gifts and memorabilia that don’t spark joy.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel right getting rid of things because it was either a gift or a keepsake from your past. However, it they don’t spark joy when you hold them, then it’s time to part with it. Kondo says thanking the person who gave it to you and the item for its duty before getting rid of it will help rid the guilt.

Getting rid of stuffed animals that don’t spark joy

“The reason why you’re hesitant to throw them away is because it feels like they’re living,” Kondo told NextShark.

“The reason why it feels that way is because they have eyes. You feel like they are staring at you or somehow they have souls of their own. That’s why it’s harder to throw them away.

“When you’re throwing them away, the key is to cover their eyes and then dispose.

“In Japan, we have trash bags that are transparent so that’s not something you want to use when throwing away stuffed animals. You feel like they’re looking at you as they are being thrown away. It’s likely to become an emotional burden. That’s why it’s helpful to cover their eyes before throwing them away.

“In Japan, there are shrines that hold memorial services for stuffed animals and dolls. They also cover their eyes and it’s one of the rules to do so.”

Kondo’s method is far more than just about being clean and tidy. As people, we tend to hold on to things in our lives without questioning why we keep them around in the first place. It reminds you to rid the negative forces in your life and focus on what’s truly important.

“After you finish tidying up, you’ll be able to make better choices not only for your belongings, but also for your job, relationships, or anything else you may need to make decisions in life.”

As Kondo summarizes in her book, “Every object has a different role to play. Not all clothes have come to you to be worn threadbare. It is the same with people. Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those special people even more.”

Check out Marie Kondo’s new course, Tidy Up Your Home: The KonMari Method, available now at Udemy!

What Japan can teach us about cleanliness

(This year, we published many inspiring and amazing stories that made us fall in love with the world – and this is one our favourites. Click here for the full list).

The students sit with their satchels on their desks, eager to get home after another long day of seven 50-minute classes. They listen patiently as their teacher makes a few announcements about tomorrow’s timetable. Then, as every day, the teacher’s final words: “OK everybody, today’s cleaning roster. Lines one and two will clean the classroom. Lines three and four, the corridor and stairs. And line five will clean the toilets.”

A few groans arise from line five, but the children stand up, grab the mops, cloths and buckets from the broom cupboard at the back of the classroom, and trot off to the toilets. Similar scenes are happening at schools across the country.

Most first-time visitors to Japan are struck by how clean the country is. Then they notice the absence of litter bins. And street sweepers. So they’re left with the question: how does Japan stay so clean?

The easy answer is that residents themselves keep it that way. “For 12 years of school life, from elementary school to high school, cleaning time is part of students’ daily schedule,” said Maiko Awane, assistant director of Hiroshima Prefectural Government’s Tokyo office. “In our home life as well, parents teach us that it’s bad for us not to keep our things and our space clean.”

You may also be interested in:
• Japan’s unusual way to view the world
• The complex art of apology in Japan
• The truth about mindfulness

Including this element of social consciousness in the school curriculum helps the children develop an awareness of, and pride in, their surroundings. Who wants to dirty or deface a school that they have to clean up themselves?

“I sometimes didn’t want to clean the school,” recalled freelance translator Chika Hayashi, “but I accepted it because it was part of our routine. I think having to clean the school is a very good thing because we learn that it’s important for us to take responsibility for cleaning the things and places that we use.”

On arriving at school, students leave their shoes in lockers and change into trainers. At home, too, people leave their street shoes at the entrance. Even workmen coming to your house will remove their shoes and pad around in their socks. And as the schoolchildren grow, their concept of what constitutes their space extends beyond the classroom to include their neighbourhood, their city and their country.

Some examples of extreme Japanese cleanliness have gone viral, like the seven-minute Shinkansen train-cleaning ritual that has become a tourist attraction in its own right.

Even Japan’s football supporters are cleanliness-conscious. In World Cup football tournaments in Brazil (2014) and Russia (2018), the national team’s fans amazed the world by staying behind to pick up rubbish from the stadium. The players also left their dressing room in immaculate condition. “What an example for all teams!” tweeted FIFA’s general coordinator Priscilla Janssens.

“We Japanese are very sensitive about our reputation in others’ eyes,” Awane said. “We don’t want others to think we are bad people who don’t have enough education or upbringing to clean things up.”

Similar scenes unfold at Japanese music festivals. At the Fuji Rock festival, Japan’s biggest and oldest festival, fans keep their rubbish with them until they find a bin. Smokers are instructed to bring a portable ashtray and to ‘refrain from smoking where your smoke can affect other people’, according to the festival website. How different to 1969’s Woodstock festival, where Jimi Hendrix played to a handful of people amid a vast morass of trash.

We don’t want others to think we are bad people who don’t have enough education or upbringing to clean things up

Examples of social awareness abound in daily life too. Around 08:00, for instance, office workers and shop staff clean the streets around their place of work. Children volunteer for the monthly community clean, picking up rubbish from the streets near their school. Neighbourhoods, too, hold regular street-cleaning events. Not that there’s much to clean, because people take their litter home.

Even banknotes emerge from ATM’s as crisp and clean as a freshly starched shirt. Nevertheless, money gets dirty, which is why you never put it directly into someone’s hand. In shops, hotels and even in taxis, you’ll see a little tray to place the money. The other person then picks it up.

Invisible dirt – germs and bacteria – are another source of concern. When people catch colds or flu, they wear surgical masks to avoid infecting other people. This simple act of consideration for others reduces the spread of viruses, thereby saving a fortune in lost work days and medical expenses.

So how did the Japanese become so clean-conscious?

It certainly isn’t a new thing, as mariner Will Adams found when he anchored here in 1600, thus becoming the first Englishman to set foot in Japan. In his biography of Adams, Samurai William, Giles Milton notes ‘the nobility were scrupulously clean’, enjoying ‘pristine sewers and latrines’ and steam baths of scented wood at a time when the streets of England ‘often overflowed with excrement’. The Japanese ‘were appalled’ by the Europeans’ disregard for personal cleanliness.

In part, this preoccupation is born of practical concerns. In a hot, humid environment like Japan’s, food goes off quickly. Bacteria flourish. Bug life abounds. So good hygiene means good health.

But it goes deeper than that. Cleanliness is a central part of Buddhism, which arrived from China and Korea between the 6th and 8th Centuries. In fact, in the Zen version of Buddhism, which came to Japan from China in the 12th and 13th Centuries, daily tasks like cleaning and cooking are considered spiritual exercises, no different from meditating.

“In Zen, all daily life activities, including having meals and cleaning the space, must be regarded as an opportunity to practice Buddhism. Washing off the dirt both physically and spiritually plays an important role in the daily practice,” said Eriko Kuwagaki of Shinshoji Temple in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture.

Washing off the dirt both physically and spiritually plays an important role in the daily practice

In Okakura Kakuro’s The Book of Tea, his classic book about the tea ceremony and the Zen philosophy that infuses it, he writes that, in the room where the tea ceremony is held “…everything is absolutely clean. Not a particle of dust will be found in the darkest corner, for if any exists the host is not a tea master.”

Okakura wrote those words in 1906, but they still hold true today. Prior to a tea ceremony at the Seifukan tea house in Hiroshima’s Shukkeien Garden, you’ll see the tea master’s kimono-clad assistant on her hands and knees dabbing the tatami floor with a roll of sticky brown-paper tape, picking up every speck of dust.

So why aren’t all Buddhist nations as zealously clean as Japan? Well, long before the arrival of Buddhism, Japan already had its own indigenous religion: Shinto (meaning ‘The Way of The Gods’), said to enshrine the very soul of the Japanese identity. And cleanliness lies at the heart of Shinto. In the West, we are taught that cleanliness is next to godliness. In Shinto, cleanliness is godliness. So Buddhism’s emphasis on cleanliness merely reinforced what the Japanese already practiced.

A key concept in Shinto is kegare (impurity or dirt), the opposite of purity. Examples of kegare range from death and disease to virtually anything unpleasant. Frequent purification rituals are necessary to ward off kegare.

“If an individual is afflicted by kegare, it can bring harm to society as a whole,” explained Noriaki Ikeda, assistant Shinto priest at Hiroshima’s Kanda Shrine. “So it is vital to practice cleanliness. This purifies you and helps avoid bringing calamities to society. That is why Japan is a very clean country.”

This concern for others is understandable in the case of, say, infectious diseases. But it also works on more prosaic levels, like picking up your own rubbish. As Awane put it: “We Japanese believe we shouldn’t bother others by being lazy and neglecting the trash we’ve made.”

Examples of ritual purification abound in everyday life. Before entering a Shinto shrine, worshippers rinse their hands and mouth in a stone water basin at the entrance. Many Japanese take their new car to the shrine to be purified by the priest, who uses a feather duster-like wand called onusa that he waves around the car. He then opens the doors, bonnet and boot to purify the interior. The priest also purifies people by waving the onusa from side to side over them. He will even use it to purify land on which new building is about to commence.

If you live in Japan, you soon find yourself adopting the clean lifestyle. You stop blowing your nose in public, make use of the hand sanitizers provided for customers in shops and offices, and learn to sort your household rubbish into 10 different types to facilitate recycling.

And, like Will Adams and his castaway crew back in 1600, you find your quality of life improves.

Then, when you return to your homeland, you’re shocked by barbarians who sneeze and cough in your face. Or stomp into your house in dirty shoes. Unthinkable in Japan.

But there’s still hope. After all, it also took a while for Pokémon, sushi and camera phones to sweep the world.

Why We Are What We Are is a BBC Travel series examining the characteristics of a country and investigating whether they are true.

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The Cleanest Person in the World!

The cleanest person in the world is a ‘She’! Yes, she is Marie “Konmari” Kondo. The best-selling author of the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” which sold millions of copies world wide. She is also an acclaimed organizing consultant in Japan that has changed millions of people’s way on how to tidy up. This is according to the article whose link I’m sharing below. I’m not a ‘Konvert’ yet. I have not read the book and neither have I tried her tidying method. (But I have to say, I’m a fairly organized person. I hate clutter and mess ) I just saw Marie “Konmari” Kondo’s Facebook page (which I actually liked and followed ) and became interested particularly with this post she shared from Techjuice entitled “How to declutter your mind and get organized?” Marie asked,”Do you feel overwhelmed by the thoughts that are constantly running in your mind?” Well, yes at times, I actually do! Do you guys feel the same way? Have you ever had all these thoughts you need to put out? May be this article could help. It discusses some helpful ways on how we could clear our heads, improve focus and increase productivity level. Isn’t it good to be organized not just in your physical space but in your head space as well?