Have you ever wondered why Japanese don’t wear shoes inside? Well I did. And it’s funny because I’ve always seen in anime people taking off their shoes all the time and I didn’t understand why they did it. I mean, it’s kind of normal to take your shoes at home, but in restaurants? This is kind of new. So I started doing some research because, when you travel to Japan, you do want to respect culture and avoid some faux-pas with the Japanese shoes etiquette. I found that when you get the principle, it is easy to understand when you should take off your shoes or not. And also how to do it. Yes, there’s a specific way to take off your shoes in Japan, and you probably weren’t expecting that. But, we’re talking about Japan, and if they did things like everyone else, we wouldn’t be so fascinated about this amazing country.
So why do Japanese take off their shoes? The Japanese take off their shoes for cleanliness. Traditionally, the Japanese ate meals sitting on tatami mats instead of chairs, and they rolled out the futon to sleep on tatami floors. As they are very close to the floor, it’s not ok to bring the shoes into the house which would result in a dirty floor.
Seen this way, it seems logical to take off your shoes when you enter a house, but, as usual, things are not that simple in Japan. Yes, not only you have to take your shoes off, but you have to change into slippers. And there are different slippers for different rooms, and rooms where even slippers can’t be used and you have to enter barefoot or with socks… I guess you get the idea: it’s complicated! Now let me help you understand a little better how this shoe thing works so you won’t feel lost when you visit Japan.
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The Japanese Slipper Mania
As I briefly told you before, when you enter a traditional Japanese house, you take off your shoes and put on a pair of slippers. This is the easy part, and it is logical specially during rainy days. Even in your own country, I guess you will naturally take off your shoes.
When you take off your shoes, you switch into a pair of house slippers because it’s more comfortable and it will keep your feet warm. Nothing really extraordinary, right?
Then, things start to get complicated.
The slippers you’re using in the house aren’t meant to be used in all the rooms. Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. If you need to use the bathroom of a traditional Japanese house, chances are that there will be another pair of slippers waiting for you. For the Japanese, the bathroom floor is not considered as clean as the rest of the house so you have to change slippers. Of course, once you finish your business in the bathroom, you have to switch slippers again.
Please, don’t leave the bathroom with the toilet slippers on because you will shock your Japanese friends. Now, let’s move on to the next pair of slippers.
Wait, there’s more?
Because some Japanese homes have these beautiful gardens outside, or even those with just a small balcony, you are expected to change slippers again. Yes, house slippers don’t go into the house balcony or garden because it is outside. In ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), you are expected to wear wooden sandals called Geta (you have an example of these sandals on Amazon) for your short walks in the ryokan garden. Usually, you will be given some Japanese socks to wear with the wooden sandals.
The only exception to this slipper mania is a tatami room. Tatami is the traditional Japanese flooring that you will find in most houses, or probably all the Japanese houses. This kind of floor is not easy to clean so, in rooms with tatami floor you don’t use shoes, but you don’t use any kind of slippers either. You can only enter tatami rooms using socks or barefoot.
You probably already have an idea of what a tatami floor looks like, but just in case, there’s also an example on Amazon. If you look at it closely, you’ll understand why Japanese don’t wear shoes on tatami floors. It is kind of fragile, so barefoot or socks are the best (only) option.
At the end of this post, you will find a short video about this slipper mania if you want to have a clear idea of what you just read 🙂
Places in Japan Where You Should Take Off Your Shoes
Even if Japanese love to take off their shoes, you don’t have to take off your shoes in every single place you visit in Japan. I’m going to list you the most common places where you will have to remove your shoes so you can prepare yourself before your travel.
The most common places in Japan where you’ll need to take off your shoes are:
- A person’s house: usually there’s a level difference at the entrance. This is where you’ll take off your shoes, and we’ll see later the right way to do it.
- Traditional restaurants: those with low tables. And there’s also a level difference at the entrance.
- Inside Shrines and temples
- Tea Ceremony rooms
- Onsen (Japanese hot springs) and sento (public baths)
- Some traditional stores
You may also like:Japanese Etiquette: 27 Useful Tips for First-Time Travelers
How to Use Japanese Onsen if You Try it For The First Time
How Japan Religion Works: 7 Facts Everyone Should Know
Signs in Japan That Tell You “You Should Take Off Your Shoes”
I know that most of you must be really confused about all this shoe thing in Japan, and I must confess that it took me a while to really understand when and how should I take off my shoes in Japan. Luckily, there are some signs in Japan that will help understand if you are going to face a shoe problem or not.
First, if there’s a genkan then you have to take of your shoes. The genkan (玄関) is the Japanese traditional entrance, right after the front door. It is a small area, different from the rest of the house, made for taking off your shoes, and it’s considered as “outside”. After the genkan, there’s a 3 centimeter step up where the “inside” starts. The genkan are not only seen in houses, but also in traditional restaurants, ryokan, onsen, etc.
Another sign in Japan for taking off your shoes is the presence of shelves at the entrance. If you see lots of shelves, specially with shoes inside, then it is clear that you are expected to remove your shoes.
In some places, like restaurants, shelves can be replaced by lockers. If you see lots of lockers at the entrance, it is also a sign.
In addition to all these signs, it is not uncommon to see slippers laid out. Lots of slippers everywhere is the best sign you can get 🙂
Ultimately, if you see tatami floors, then you know that you have to remove your shoes and slippers too.
The Correct Way to Take Off Your Shoes in Japan
Now that you are an expert in knowing when to take off your shoes in Japan, let’s move on to the next challenge: how to take off your shoes.
There is a very Japanese way to handle all this shoe thing, and even something as simple as taking off your shoes can become a real challenge in Japan. I’ll explain you briefly the right technique, but if you are more into visual explanations, you can skip right into the next video. It will show you what you should do and what you shouldn’t do.
As we saw before, after passing the front door, you will find the genkan area. This area is made for taking off your shoes (and also for putting your shoes on when you’re leaving).
When taking off your shoes, your feet or socks must never touch the genkan floor. Instead, you should step up right on to the next level and put on your slippers if available (otherwise just enter with your socks or barefoot). Before going inside, make sure you twist your shoes so that they are facing the door which is very practical when you leave.
After your visit, you will want to put your shoes back on using the same technique.
Remove the slippers and put them back where you got them. If they were on the floor, twist them for the next person (facing the inside, not the front door). You can seat on the step to avoid falling while putting on your shoes. And avoid touching the genkan floor with your socks because they will get dirty (and the inside of your shoes too). This can be embarrassing if you are visiting another person right away without changing socks.
I hope this video helped you understand how things works in Japan regarding shoes. And here’s also another video explaining a little more the slipper mania in Japan as I told you before.
If I can give one last piece of advice for your travel, make sure you always have clean socks in Japan because you’ll be taking off your shoes a lot. Also, check if they don’t have any holes in it before traveling. The best thing is to buy new socks for your travel just to be sure. And if you want to get into the Japanese kawaii fashion, you can buy socks with cute Japanese patterns from Amazon.
Japanese have developed the custom of eating meals sitting on tatami mats, not on chairs. They also roll out the futon on which they sleep on the tatami floor. Therefore, they take their shoes off when entering the house to avoid getting the floor dirty.Why don t Japanese wear shoes? ›
The Japanese take off their shoes for cleanliness. Traditionally, the Japanese ate meals sitting on tatami mats instead of chairs, and they rolled out the futon to sleep on tatami floors. As they are very close to the floor, it's not ok to bring the shoes into the house which would result in a dirty floor.Is it disrespectful to wear shoes in the house in Japan? ›
In addition to the practical reasons, taking off your shoes is also seen as a sign of respect when entering someone's home or place of business. Traditionally, it could be seen as disrespectful to keep your shoes on in someone's residence.
Chinese superstitions enforce the rule: wearing outdoor shoes inside is believed to introduce “bad luck”, a metaphor for germs, into the home. Going barefoot indoors is also unusual; slippers or rubber sandals being worn instead.Why do some cultures not wear shoes in the house? ›
Wearing shoes inside someone's house is seen as a sign of disrespect in many cultures throughout Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. In countries such as Japan, removing shoes is a traditional practice dating back to an era when people sat on mats on the floor.What culture removes shoes indoors? ›
In many countries like Germany, Switzerland, Skandinavian countries, Turkey, Japan, Korea etc. it is common use to take off the shoes when entering someone's home. In these countries it is considered a major faux pas to walk through a house with shoes on.What is the shoe rule in Japan? ›
People in Japan hold cleanliness in high regard, taking great care in keeping an immaculate home. This means that their home should not be soiled by the dirt on your shoes. So it is customary to take off your shoes and usually wear the provided slippers.Why is it rude to wear shoes inside? ›
In most of Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, shoes are never worn inside homes, and it can be seen as a sign of disrespect for guests to enter a host's home without leaving them at the door.Why do Filipinos remove their shoes? ›
In Filipino culture, taking your shoes off when visiting people's places is a sign of respect. "It's usually rebutted by the host saying, 'You don't have to take your shoes off, I haven't cleaned the house properly,' but you take them off anyway because they are just being polite."Do Americans really wear shoes in the house? ›
It's pretty common for Americans to walk around the house in shoes…and they don't necessarily don and doff their shoes near the door. But, it's also not a universal thing either. A fairly large percentage of Americans do indeed take their shoes off, consistently. And a certain number are rather strict about this too.
In Turkey, most people remove their shoes before entering any house.What does it mean to take off your shoes in the Bible? ›
In verse 6 this Messenger identified himself as God. He told Moses to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. There's your answer: Moses was standing on holy ground. Taking off one's shoes was and still is a sign of reverence, humility, and respect.Do British wear shoes indoors? ›
Brits are aware that in some countries—Sweden, for example—it's considered incredibly rude to wear your shoes indoors. But here in the UK things are very different. The basic rule is this: we're coming in and we're probably wearing our shoes!Can you wear flip flops in Japan? ›
Wear slip-on shoes
While flip flops are a big no-no for most occasions (save for a trip to the beach or a midnight run to the conbini), comfy ballet flats, loafers, boat shoes, or even a nice pair of slip-on sneakers are practical options. You might also notice that open-toed shoes and sandals are uncommon.
The main purpose of wearing slippers is obvious – to keep the place clean. After all, if you take your outside shoes off at the door, you can't track dirt through your home. Plus, in the colder months, slippers save your feet from touching cold apartment floors.Is it rude to have bare feet in Japan? ›
Slippers are provided by the host. If you are not wearing socks, it is polite to bring a fresh pair of socks to wear after removing your outdoor shoes because entering someone's house barefoot is not considered well mannered, although acceptable in informal situations.Why do Hawaiians take their shoes off? ›
Mahalo" This sign is on most homes in Hawaii to remind locals and non-locals alike to take off their shoes before entering the home. To walk into someone's home with your shoes (or “slippers”) on is considered very disrespectful, rude, and quite simply, something you just don't do.Do Mexicans take their shoes off inside? ›
In Mexico you can keep your shoes on. Obviously if it's your house, you can be however you want but guests don't generally take them off, unless they stay at our places to sleep or if they temporarily live with us. And sometimes we even keep our shoes on. Personally, I usually take them off to be more comfortable.Do Americans leave their shoes at the door? ›
One in ten (10%) will “always” request their guests remove their shoes though slightly more say they'll ask less frequently, either “most of the time” (11%), “sometimes” (13%), or “rarely” (13%). Slightly more men (52%) than women (49%) say they'll ask their visitors to take off their shoes sometimes.Can I cross my legs in Japan? ›
Crossing your feet in some cultures is considered very rude. In Japan you are expected to sit erect with both feet on the floor and never cross your ankle over your knee. In Singapore, as in many Asia cultures, the foot is thought to be unclean and should not be used to point at someone.
In Japan, it is customary to take off one's shoes and put on slippers to wear inside a Japanese house, temple, restaurant, ryokan or school. There are two reasons for this. One is psychological: by following this ritual, you will leave the worries and stress of the outside world behind as you enter a quieter place.Do Japanese students take off their shoes in school? ›
In most Japanese schools, everyone has to change out of their outside shoes and into their inside shoes (called Uwabaki or Uwagutsu) when they enter the school.Why do Chinese take shoes off in house? ›
Modern Custom of Removing Shoes/Wearing Slippers
Besides for personal hygiene, Chinese households often take off their shoes to also help protect wood floors and carpets especially. This helps to avoid tracking in a lot of dirt and other substances from the outside, and minimize wear on the floors at the same time.
Walking without shoes can improve balance, help with pain relief and lead to improved mechanics of hips, knees and core.Why don't Koreans wear shoes in the house? ›
When entering a Korean home, you must remove your shoes. To do any less is a sign of great disrespect. Koreans have a special relationship with their floor, on which they sit and often sleep.Why do Filipinos wear white? ›
But in the Philippines, whiteness also signifies prestige and superiority. In a society where lighter complexion is revered, a white skin color becomes a goal, if not an obsession. The primary indicator of beauty in the Tagalog language is maputi or having a white, clear complexion.What is considered most disrespectful in your culture in the Philippines? ›
It is considered rude to lean on one's arms when present at the dinner table. Filipinos may allow food to go cold before eating it as they wish to have all the dishes present on the table before serving. It is common to leave food at the table just in case someone else arrives or is hungry later.What percentage of people wear shoes indoors? ›
Overall, 17.7% of people regularly wear their shoes in the house, while 25.5% sometimes do.Why do Americans wear jeans? ›
They have been associated with the American west, cowboys, and dude ranches. Wearing jeans makes a person feel casual, relaxed, and leisured. A great fitting pair of jeans holds an vivid impression of the body within. They have symbolized youth.How many people don t wear shoes? ›
In fact over 600 million people worldwide don't own a single pair of shoes.
While in many cultures, removing your shoes when you go into someone's home is a sign of politeness, not so in Spain, where you will be hard-pressed to find a shoeless Spaniard anywhere, be in in the home or on the beach. At home, most wear slippers and at the beach and by the pool, flip flops are the order of the day.What country has the most shoes? ›
China was the world's leading consumer of footwear, with around 4.32 billion pairs of shoes bought in 2021. It is of little surprise that China tops the list of footwear consumers as it had the highest number of inhabitants on the planet as of 2021.Why do people leave their shoes outside? ›
While some people do this simply to avoid tracking in mud or dirt, or even for cultural reasons, scientists recommend that everyone take note and start doing it too. That's because the germs of shoes can easily spread from whatever you walked on outside to your floors inside.Who walked barefoot in the Bible? ›
Isaiah 20:2-4 reads: “At the same time spake the Lord by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.What does the Bible say about dusting off your feet? ›
Matthew 10:14, as Jesus sends out his disciples (two-by-two), He declares, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”Where in the Bible does it say put off your sandals? ›
"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground."Should you wear socks in the house? ›
Some of the most common deformities include hammertoes or bunions (Hallux Valgus). One of the biggest problems with going barefoot in the house means that your feet will be directly exposed to germs and bacteria on the ground and even the possibility of stepping on sharp and pointy items, including glass.Do Australians wear shoes in the house? ›
Interestingly, the 2021 Australia Talks Survey revealed that most Australians did not expect guests to take off their shoes before entering their home (29% agree, 55% disagree). If you're one of that 29%, there are a few things you can do to ensure guests are leaving their footwear out front.
Try not to keep shoes in the bedroom. Sometimes the negativity arising from them can be so intense that it can even lead to a troubled marriage. Do not keep the shoe rack in the kitchen or too close to the prayer room.Can you be barefoot in Japan? ›
Slippers are provided by the host. If you are not wearing socks, it is polite to bring a fresh pair of socks to wear after removing your outdoor shoes because entering someone's house barefoot is not considered well mannered, although acceptable in informal situations.
While flip flops are a big no-no for most occasions (save for a trip to the beach or a midnight run to the conbini), comfy ballet flats, loafers, boat shoes, or even a nice pair of slip-on sneakers are practical options. You might also notice that open-toed shoes and sandals are uncommon.Do Japanese students take off their shoes? ›
In most Japanese schools, everyone has to change out of their outside shoes and into their inside shoes (called Uwabaki or Uwagutsu) when they enter the school.Do you have to take your shoes off at restaurants in Japan? ›
In Japan, it is customary to take off one's shoes and put on slippers to wear inside a Japanese house, temple, restaurant, ryokan or school. There are two reasons for this. One is psychological: by following this ritual, you will leave the worries and stress of the outside world behind as you enter a quieter place.Can you show your thighs in Japan? ›
Even though many Japanese girls wear mini skirts, it's actually illegal to expose your thighs or buttocks in public according to the Light Crimes Act passed in 1948.Which countries go barefoot? ›
In European nations, including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, there are barefoot parks or walks. These parks are kept clean and maintained on a regular basis, so that barefoot hiking can be done in an environment suitable for people who are habitually shod.Is it illegal to wear leggings in Japan? ›
Japan Dress Code for Women
On some days, however, the desire for comfort trumps the concept of jeans or any type of limited clothes. Unfortunately, wearing tracksuit bottoms or leggings outside of the gym is frowned upon and considered a sign of laziness here in Japan.
Avoid showing your shoulders; if the dress is sleeveless, add a shawl or bolero. White should be avoided, although at a more casual wedding you may be able to wear black. On the other hand, it's not all rules and customs.Is it okay to wear sweatpants in Japan? ›
Legs: You'll want to bring 3 to 5 pairs of nice thick pants. Don't bring sweat pants or jump suits, unless you plan to only wear it in your hotel room. Japanese people only wear them to the gym and you'll be very underdressed. Underwear: Along with your 7 or 8 days worth of underwear, bring some long underwear.Do Japanese schools let girls wear pants? ›
At the end of the 2019 school year, it began allowing girls to wear pants. At the end of 2021, girls were given the option of wearing neckties, no longer limited to bow ties.Do Japanese schools let kids on the roof? ›
Hanging out on the roof, a seemingly normal rite-of-passage in Japanese high schools according to anime, doesn't actually happen in real life. At least, not often. Some high schools do lock the doors to the roof, and even if you could go out there, it's not exactly a comfortable place.
Public schools in Japan have classes five days a week, from Monday to Friday. There are also schools that have classes on Saturday. In junior high and high schools, there are six class periods each day, typically lasting 50 minutes for each.Is it rude to not finish food in Japan? ›
Always finish your meal!
The Japanese consider it rude to leave food on your plate, and even more so to order more food when you haven't finished everything you've already got. This is related to one of the fundamental concepts in Japanese culture, mottainai, which is a feeling of regret at having wasted something.
Don't leave food behind. It's considered bad manners to leave even grains of rice behind, so be sure to clean your plate! If there are some foods you cannot eat, ask to have them left out of the dish. Do use the opposite end of chopsticks to pick up food from a shared dish.Can I throw clothes in Japan? ›
Every community in Japan has a scheduled trash collection for clothing. However, this option is only advisable for clothes that are really close to disintegration. If you have outfits that can still be used, give them a second chance in another person's closet.