Thursday, April 8, 2010

All my shoes

Japan has a shoe culture. I think most of us are at least vaguely aware that in Japan one's shoes are removed before entering someone's home. What many people may not know is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The practice of owning and wearing several different pairs of shoes for different occasions isn't uniquely Japanese - just ask any American women how many pairs she has in her closet. In Japan, however, there are cultural forces driving this practice. Specifically, the Japanese concern for cleanliness. While there are many instances where this concern is overlooked or ignored, it has become deeply rooted in many Japanese customs and daily practices - such as treatment of shoes.


Take my base school for example. I wear my work shoes only to walk or cycle over to the school building. I take them off at the inside entrance (玄関, げんかん) and put on my indoor slippers (which for some reason can also be worn outside, but only on school grounds). I usually wear these. If there's an event in the gym, though, I either have to take off my shoes and go it in socks, or wear a pair of sneakers I bought specifically to be worn indoors. That is, unless the tarp is laid out on the gym floor. In that case I can wear my indoor slippers (but not my outdoor shoes). Today was the entrance ceremony for the new 1st-year students, and I noticed that all the attending parents had brought their own slippers from home!

Lastly, let's not forget about bathroom slippers. Yup - the bathroom entrance also has slippers on the inside, which you must exchange for your indoor slippers.

It's a practice I've gotten used to, and I can understand the reasoning behind the custom. And hey, I like the idea of not wearing shoes in the house. I have to say, though, sometimes it is still frustrating - especially at work.





  1. はじめまして。。。初めてのコメントです。学校で靴を脱ぎ履きするのは、大変。体育館シューズ。室内履き。外用の靴。トイレ用スリッパ。日本人って、靴を履いたり、脱いだりするのが早いと思うのですが。。。私は家の中では靴を脱ぐ方が楽チン!

  2. コメントありがとう!