Shoes

16 Oct

Japanese people don’t wear shoes indoors. We all know this. But before coming here, I had no idea the extent to which this rule is observed.

At home. Naturally. There’s a step-down entranceway in every home where you and guests can leave shoes. Often there’s a built-in shelf if you’re lucky, or a freestanding one, to hold all those shoes that don’t belong in the house.

At school/work. All students exchange their shoes for standard school slippers when they enter the building. We all have special lockers just for shoes; here is a picture of the teachers’ shoe lockers.

If you are a guest, we have special shoes for you, too. Hope your feet aren’t too big!

At hotels. Again, here’s a shot of the foot lockers and basket of slippers at the hostel where I stayed in Kyoto.

All of us guests walked around the carpeted hostel barefoot or in socks. A remarkable sight, and amusing to my Western sensibilities. But the thing that really got me was:

At many major tourist sights. All the famous temples and shrines, the old Shogun’s palace, etc—shoes off. These aren’t little one-room huts, either. We’re talking complexes with multiple buildings and bridges or pathways connecting them. And thousands of tourists walking the halls in socks or barefoot. Most places had boxes of plastic bags so you could carry your shoes with you if you preferred or planned to leave from a different entrance; or you could leave them on shelves provided. Check out this photo from Nijo-jo, an awesome palace:

In short, no shoes on wood, carpet or tatami. Period. Even if you’ve got a million people passing through each year, as I’m sure some of these places do, everyone takes the time to slip off their shoes before entering.

Just one of those small but fundamental differences I thought y’all would find interesting!

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