Recently I made a Twitter poll and asked JustJapanStuff readers what types of things they’d like to see here on the page. Many people said they’d like to learn more about cultural norms and rules in Japan. I thought that was a smashing idea. Fantastic to say the least so here we go…
SHOES…DON’T wear them inside someone’s house when in Japan.
This is a cultural rule that most fans of things Japanese may already be aware of. You should always take your shoes off upon entering someone’s house. There is even an area near the door known as a genkan. It’s specifically designed for the removal and storage of both foreigner and Japanese shoes, boots, Crocs, Ugs, stilettos…whatever….shoes of all kinds.
It’s simple manners to remove your shoes when entering a person’s house in Japan. It’s also customary to do so when entering a school and many types of businesses. If you see an area for storing shoes near a doorway and a basket or shelf with slippers, it’s probably safe to say you should remove your shoes at the door, neatly line them up with the toes facing the door (easier to put on when leaving) and put on the slippers.
To be honest, growing up in Eastern Canada, I never wore shoes inside the house. Many Japanese people are shocked to learn this. Most Japanese have a stereotype that ALL westerners tromp about in our homes wearing dirty shoes like barbarians. In my family, we simply tromped around “BARBARIAN STYLE” in our sock feet on our very clean floors. If I wore shoes in my house I would have faced a quick and incredibly painful death at the hands of my mother.
Winter is very long, nasty and dirty in many pats of Canada. We would never think to walk into a house wearing wet, muddy, salty, nasty boots! We are a civilized lot in the Great White North after all!
Long story short…
Shoes off when entering a house (including your own) in Japan.
Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.
Follow him on Twitter: @jlandkev
Having lived in Japan, and Canada, the whole shoes off thing is not new or even unusual to me. I have watched countless videos from Jvloggers and many of their apartment tours. They always mention that near the beginning of their videos.
Unfortunately, they always do it incorrectly. They take off their shoes and stand in the genkan. I think they missed it entirely. The point is not to bring the gunge from the genkan (granted most Japanese homes, including the genkan are rather cleaner than my front hall or mudroom–but I live in the land of ice and snow) into the house.
Someone (everyone who has ever made an apartment tour video really) should make a video showing how to step out of your shoes into a Japanese house.
How did I learn…scolded by my Japanese family.
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