When we first moved into our apartment, we had new hardwood floors installed and I decided we would officially become a “no shoes” household. Naoto and I were both accustomed to taking our shoes off at the door, but in our old apartment, with its worn hardwoods, we didn’t really think about asking our guests to take off theirs. But the hardwoods in our new apartment were the most expensive upgrade to our home and I wanted to take good care of them. Wet shoes, snowy, salty shoes, un-maintained high heels, rocks…they were all the enemy (not to mention dog doo, spit, food, dirt and other unmentionables from the outside world).
But my mom pointed out that as a good hostess, you want people to feel comfortable in your home. For some people, that means keeping their shoes on. I know deep down that my mom is right, and I do want to be a good hostess, but it’s hard–especially with the snowy, slushy weather we’ve been having–to not cry when I think about muddy boots traipsing across my floors and rugs.
This is where Japan Does It Better…
In Japan, there is no question whether or not you should remove your shoes. Everyone removes their shoes. You walk into a tiny vestibule, take off your shoes and step into the rest of the home. Outdoor shoes never step up into the rest of the home. And most people have an array of house shoes that you can wear if you choose.
The aversion to outdoor shoes being worn indoors goes beyond homes in Japan. In some restaurants and shrines, you are asked to remove your shoes. Oftentimes at izakayas there are lockers where you place your outdoor shoes to keep them safe while you eat. (It can be hard to keep track of your locker key when you drink too much!) Some places have communal slippers you wear while inside, other places you just wear your socks. I often wonder how the communal slipper thing would be accepted in the US…I am pretty germ-phobic, but I never thought twice about putting on communal slippers in Japan. (Everything just seems very sanitary there.) And luckily, I’ve always had cute, hole-free socks in my suitcase during my trips to Japan!
What do you think? Shoes, no shoes? Would you think it was weird to take your shoes off in a restaurant?
No shoes indoors…just another way Japan Does It Better!
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