A well-known part of the Japanese culture is that the Japanese remove their shoes before entering houses. To the Japanese, it may seem like a very unique feature of their culture, but there are actually many other countries that adopt this custom. However, to foreign visitors from countries that do not, it may be a very confusing concept to comprehend.
There are situations other than when entering a house where it is required of you to remove your shoes. In this article, we will look at similar situations.
Hakone Shoes Off Rule No.1: When entering a house
Remove your shoes at the entrance of someone’s house before entering.
Hakone Shoes Off Rule No.2: When trying on clothes
Remove your shoes before entering the changing room to avoid dirtying the clothes.
Hakone Shoes Off Rule No.3: In Japanese style rooms
It is good etiquette to remove your shoes when in Japanese style restaurants and sitting on zashiki. The zashiki is raised slightly above the ground, and people sit directly on the mats or ground so do try to keep the place clean.
Hakone Shoes Off Rule No.4: Ryokans (Japanese inns)
Ryokans are like houses, where you should remove your shoes before entering. There may be slippers prepared for you, and remember to remove those slippers before entering rooms. It is proper etiquette to not wear your slippers on tatami mats.
Hakone Shoes Off Rule No.5: Shrines/Temples
When entering the halls of shrines or temples, you will often be required to remove your shoes. Follow the rules of the place you visit.
Hakone Shoes Off Rule No.6: Hot springs/Public baths
Make sure to remove your shoes at the entrance of hot springs or public baths. There will be shoeboxes available, so lock your shoes up there.
Hakone Shoes Off Rule No.7: Community centers (& other public facilities)
Old public facilities may require you to remove your shoes before entering. Ask around if you are unsure.
Hakone Shoes Off Rule No.8: Kindergartens, nurseries and schools
In Japanese schools, students are required to remove their shoes before entering the school buildings. There are slippers prepared for visitors, so do use them.
Place your shoes into the shoeboxes available, or leave them at the entrance but arrange them to face the exit. Japan has always been a humid country, and the floor is often raised high to let the humidity escape. Furthermore, before pavements were built, the people always had their shoes dirtied outside, and even muddy when it rained. If they just went into their houses like this, they would have gotten their houses dirty too, and this thus developed into a custom.
Such customs vary according to each country, but it is important to take note of when to remove your shoes in Japan.