Shoe Etiquette in Japan: What to Know
Customs are different in every country. This is a given. However, the extent to which customs vary often escapes travelers. In order to be respectful when visiting another country, it’s important to be aware of the culture and customs of that country.
In Japan, shoe etiquette is quite different than in many other countries. There is a distinction between “indoor” and “outdoor” shoes and they should be used in their respective spaces.
When visiting a private residence, slippers are usually provided to guests upon removing their shoes at the entrance.
When entering some common spaces, especially in traditional hotels or public bathing facilities, it is proper to remove one’s shoes (and bring them along in a bag or store them in a locker).
Additionally, there are bathroom slippers that are to be changed into and worn only in the bathroom area. It may seem like a lot, but it’s easy to remember.
One question many Japanese people have asked Americans is, “Do you always wear your shoes inside like in the movies where kids run up the stairs and jump on their bed in street shoes?!” While this may be an extreme representation and generalization of Americans as a whole, it demonstrates the difference in cultural expectations. To many Americans, removing one’s shoes at the door may seem to be a troublesome obligation; to many Japanese, keeping shoes on in the house is unclean, requiring extra cleaning, and damaging to surfaces such as fragile tatami mats.
Choosing one or the other is both a personal choice and cultural routine; however, it is enlightening to learn other norms and their reason d’être.
[More Information about Japanese Lifestyle & Customs]
■Japan National Tourism Organization
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