Super Clean Tokyo and the 1964 Campaign to “Banish Cigarette Butts From All the Streets in the World”

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Japan Tobacco 2011 ad series, entitled “Smoking Manners for Adults”; they had been releasing similar ads since the early 1960s.

When I first moved to Japan, the first pleasant surprise was the everyday practice of taking my shoes off before entering a home. After doing that for a while, it nearly disgusted me when I came back to New York where everywhere was parading around the house in the shoes that stepped in all kinds of you-know-what outside.

I also noticed how many white cars there were on the road, and that they gleamed with newness. Then I noticed all cars on the roads looked new, nary a dent or smidge of mud to be seen. And of course, you have to look hard to find garbage on the ground, even in highly congested megalopolis of Tokyo.

So it came as no surprise to read this short article in the October 11, 1964 Japan Times.

No Litterbugs

Spectators at the opening ceremony were generally well-mannered, garbage men at the National Stadium said Saturday night. Trash collected at the stadium after the opening rites was more than 12 tons, but there were few “litterbugs”, they said.

People were given a polyethylene trash bag at the entrance. Printed on the bag was a direction in English: “Please use this etiquette bag for tidying around you.”

Three hundred waste baskets and 250 ashtrays were placed in the stadium and most people used them. In addition, a finger-sized aluminum cylinder with a cap was given to each to be used as a portable ash tray.

When I read that last line about 18 months ago, it was a bit hard for me to imagine what that cylinder looked like….until last week, when I visited four-time Olympian, Andras Toro, in California. Toro, who was an Olympian in Japan in 1964, happened to have a couple, and they looked like this.

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In the cylinder is a message from the benefactor, International Lions Club, District 302, based then in Nihonbashi Tokyo. It wasn’t a message against smoking, this despite a report the next day that four out of every ten youths started smoking before the age of 20, or the fears of cancer. No, it was a message of cleanliness, and fire prevention.

LET’S BANISH CIGARETTE BUTTS FROM ALL THE STREETS IN THE WORLD

This is a cigarette butt container. Please use it in the stand while watching games. Many of these were donated to Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee by All Tokyo Lions Clubs of International Club 302 District and their members for you people coming to see the Olympic Games. We are advocating a campaign in an effort to

STOP THROWING BUTTS AWAY. SMOKE WHERE AN ASH-TRAY IS.

We are sure you may think it strange that we have to advocate such a thing now in the capital of Japan that is proud of being a civilized country. We don’t blame you at all if you do.

But, What a shame! There are not a few people as you see smoking while walking and throwing cigarette butts away in the streets in this biggest city in the world – Tokyo. Now we will present a very interesting fact to you. Take a look a t the following table indicating that FIRES CAUSED BY CIGARETTES are never, superseded by fires of other origins even in other notable cities in the world.

Well, what do you think. Surprising there are so many fires caused by cigarette, isn’t it? That is why we vote for and our sincerest and outspoken prayer…..LET’S BANISH FROM THE WORLD SMOKING AND THROWING BUTTS IN THE STREET.

Now that’s a message that still resonates today!

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