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In episode 24 of the Japanese anime Shin Atashin'chi, around 13:45, a boy on the verge of tears collects a heap of dirt or sand with his hand while holding a sack in the other. This happens in reaction to hearing that his secret love interest finds an older boy attractive.

scene from anime

I assume this is a metaphor for somebody in despair or with their hopes shattered.

Is this interpretation correct?

Is the act a reference to a Japanese fairy tale, story, myth or legend?

Or is he digging his own grave because he is preparing for death from sadness?

The episode is focused on the sport of Baseball. I mention this after reading the answer.

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The All-Japan Senior High School Baseball Championship Tournament is held at 甲子園 stadium every year.

There is a custom that losing teams bring a little dirt from 甲子園 stadium back to their school in memory. So, I think his action in this case means the thing you assumed.

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  • Consuetude is such a beautiful word but I think 'custom' is more usual. (The two words are cognates anyway...) – jogloran Apr 2 '16 at 9:02

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