Tokyo’s trash-collecting samurai takes a fun, zany approach to cleanup

Mai 22, às 19:01


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They call themselves the Gomi Hiroi Samurai — or the “Samurai Who Pick Up Litter.” These sword-wielding eco-warriors have turned garbage collecting into a choreographed performance. 
Tokyo’s trash-collecting samurai takes a fun, zany approach to cleanup

Passersby do a double take when they see Kaz Kobayashi and Ikki Goto.

The two men glide through Tokyo’s bustling Ikebukuro district in full-length samurai outfits, while wielding objects that look like swords. They are members of the Gomi Hiroi Samurai or the trash-collecting samurai.

“Yesterday was Friday so people are smoking and drinking around here, so there’s a lot of trash,” Kobayashi said.

On closer inspection, their samurai swords — or katanas — are actually just very long tongs, used to pick up litter. Kobayashi said the tongs are important for novelty value.

“We’re doing this as entertainment … but it can be tiring sometimes. It’s tough, man.”

The Gomi Hiroi Samurai do this three times a week. There’s four of them, and they’re professional actors. In their spare time, they volunteer to keep the streets of Tokyo clean. Goto formed the group in 2009. Since then, they have become a viral sensation on TikTok, with over 700,000 followers and counting.

Here in Ikebukuro, they target back alleys and parking lots, which are rife with litter. Kobayashi and Goto, working in sync, slice and spin their tongs through the air, meticulously seizing cigarette butts one by one before tossing them into the wastebaskets strapped to their backs.

Manaka Nishibiro, a nursery teacher trainee, watched them from a distance.

“Picking up trash is unpleasant for most people, but their performance makes it look so fun,” Nishibiro said, adding that she hopes it might encourage others to do the same.

An hour later, Kobayashi and Goto took their wastebaskets to a recycling base. There, they separated out every piece of rubbish they’ve collected. They said that they hope to recruit more Gomi Hiroi samurai  in Japan — and around the world — to spread their message: “We punish immoral hearts.”

It means that trash in and of itself isn’t bad. Instead, it’s people and the actions that stem from their negative mindsets. And a growing sense of negativity is something that Kobayashi said worries him.

“This is a problem in Japan,” he said. “People don’t go outside.”

Last month, a government survey showed that 1.5 million people are living as social recluses in Japan. With loneliness and depression on the rise, Kobayashi said he hopes that their fun, zany take on something as mundane as trash-collecting helps people reengage with the outside world.

“Samurai is a warrior,” he said. “Our philosophy is to help people.”

For these eco-warriors, “clean space, clear mind” is more than just a saying — it’s the way of the Gomi Hiroi samurai.

Listen to the other stories in the four-part Waste Pickers series on The World:

Trash sorters in Ghana face health and safety risks

In Mumbai, waste pickers do the heavy lifting of recycling

‘We were treated as disposable beings’: Waste pickers in Colombia fought for their rights after 11 murder

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