The Three Keys to Discipline in Japan

The three keys to discipline in Japan are order, cleanliness, and punctuality. Read all about it here!
The Three Keys to Discipline in Japan
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

For the Japanese, discipline is fundamental and must be instilled in children at an early age. Thanks to it and their sense of integrity, the Japanese maintain a sense of order.

Often, Westerners are impressed by the Japanese’s exquisite manners. But what also draws our attention is the way they position themselves in the world market by creating technologic companies that are as solid as they are productive.

We also admire their ability to recover from adversity. They did it in World War II and they also achieved it recently after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The Japanese are persistent, resistant, and disciplined.

The need to effectively contribute to their work and the welfare of the community is something that undoubtedly continues to attract the world’s attention and make people set high expectations for themselves. However, these high expectations have led to anxiety, stress, and high suicide rates that continue to rise year after year.

The three keys to discipline in Japan

The Japanese language itself draws a lot of attention. It has expressions that don’t exist in other languages. This is where they show the importance of recognizing others and their work. Phrases like “Otsukaresama desu” (thank you for your hard work) is, for example, a way to recognize others’ work and effort.

Therefore, discipline is that root that nourishes everything. Discipline helps boost talent. It’s even more valued than intelligence in Japan.

Here are the three keys to discipline in Japan.


Organization allows us to save time and become more effective. An organized house reflects harmony. A school where every teacher, student, and staff have clear functions improves the effectiveness of daily work.

Thus, organizing an environment allows you to optimize tasks and respond quickly to challenges.

We can’t ignore the fact that Japanese leaders are aware of almost every detail of day-to-day tasks. To them, it’s important for each individual to fully commit to their work.

Marie Kondo representing the discipline in Japan.


In Japanese culture, cleaning is more than removing dirt from spaces. It’s also a way of bringing balance to our lives. Marie Kondo‘s method of organizing and cleaning houses is well-known to many. Anything dirty and messy affects well-being and the mind itself. Therefore, it’s necessary to take some steps to bring harmony to our spaces.

In Japan, they apply a methodology known as 5S:

  • Seiri: Throw away anything that’s not useful nor desired.
  • Seiton: Everything must have an exclusive space.
  • Seiso: Each person, including children, is responsible for keeping all spaces clean,
  • Seiketsu: Have standardized cleaning standards and clear rules that can be understood by all.
  • Shitsuke: This term also means “discipline” and implies applying the above on a daily basis.


Another key to discipline is punctuality. This term doesn’t just imply that you should always be on time. Punctuality means to be firm with our purpose, to set a goal and fulfill it. It implies setting a series of daily goals and meeting them quickly and efficiently.

Monument of a sanctuary representing discipline in Japan.

These dimensions lead to overly high expectations. In this regard, we know that many young adults under 30 in Japan opt for suicide when they’re unable to meet those expectations.

Nobody should go to such extremes when faced with oppressive demands that limit their freedom and quality of life. We should learn from Japanese people’s discipline, but their values should be applied in the proper measure in every context. We should be inspired by their integrity and resilience. However, we shouldn’t go to psychological extremes.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Blocker, Gene (2001) Japanese Philosophy. Sunny Press

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.