Shoes and Slippers

Let’s face it – shoes are dirty. Well, at least the bottom of shoes. Shoes are worn to protect your feet and keep your feet clean and dirt-free. In Japan, shoes are naturally viewed as being dirty and they are taken off in the “genkan” (entrance) ¬†of a home and put in a shoe rack or shoe cupboard. Inside the home, slippers are worn around the house to keep your feet warm and your socks clean.

Slippers are very popular in Japan (they used to be popular a long time ago in Canada but not so much anymore), and there are even special bathroom slippers which are worn inside the bathroom. House slippers are taken off outside the bathroom door, then, when you open the bathroom door you step into the bathroom slippers. After you have finished doing your business, you step out of the bathroom slippers while in the bathroom and then open the door and step back into the house slippers. It sounds very complicated and unnecessary but it is surprising how quickly you get used to it.

Shoes are taken on and off so many times in Japan that many (most?) Japanese shoes do not have laces. The so-called “slip-on shoes” are the preferred shoes in Japan and for good reason. Being a stubborn Canadian, I love my laced-shoes and I was forever lacing and unlacing my shoes while others waited patiently for me to hurry up and get moving. I don’t know why I continued wearing laced shoes in Japan, even after I once broke a lace and had to hunt high and low all day to find a pair of laces.

If you have a pair of slip-on shoes, bring them to Japan. If you do not, then be prepared to lace and unlace wherever you go. Not just inside a Japanese home but also inside temples, shrines, and many traditional Japanese restaurants and pubs.

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