Trash Talk: Cross-Cultural Comparative Research on Environment, Nature, and Dirt among College Students in Japan and the U.S

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Perspectives on the environment, nature, and dirt represent profound cultural differences between the U.S. and Japan. Americans generally alienate themselves from nature, choosing to encounter it rarely, preferring instead to attempt to control nature. In Japan, the environment is generally treated as an important part of everyone’s life, and the Japanese tend to integrate nature into their everyday life. A central example of this contrast between cultures is the treatment of litter. Picking up trash or cleaning public space voluntarily is a typical sociocultural practice in Japan; in the U.S., however, to clean up someone else’s litter is a dirty job most eschew because it connotes a social inferiority that publicly embarrasses and demeans the self-conscious citizen.

In this paper, I will briefly define the religious and philosophical differences between Americans and the Japanese regarding the environment, nature, and dirt. Then, I will survey Japanese and American college students on their attitudes toward the environment, nature, and dirt. I will discuss what the results portend for cleaning up communities and the planet, and what related behaviors communicate in the respective societies. I will discuss how to apply such findings in pedagogy.


Keywords: Cross-Cultural Study, Environment, Japan, U.S., Dirt, Gender
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Kimiko Akita

Assistant Professor, Nicholson School of Communication, University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida, USA

Dr. Kimiko Akita is an ethnographer who teaches communication at the University of Central Florida. Her work, which focuses on gender, intercultural, and intergenerational communication, has been published numerous times in Asia and America. Her most recent articles include a cross-cultural critique of Memoirs of a Geisha and an autoethnography of being sexually harassed while teaching in Japan.

Ref: I08P0500