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Home - Question Forum
Why do Japanese take their shoes off?

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Why do Japanese take their shoes off? 2005/2/4 23:28
I just wanted to know the original reason. Now it seems to be about hygiene.
by Neil  

Why dont Europeans take their shoes off 2005/2/6 17:59
Taking your shoes off literally keeps the floor clean. People in other countries like Thailand take off their shoes too. It's just so natural to us. Maybe that's why the Japanese didn't hesitate to eat and sleep close to the floor.
by Uco rate this post as useful

... 2005/2/6 18:52
I like this comfortable life without athletefs foot. It is very common in the humid areas, as Uco said. What is more, traditionally, they have not worn the shoes made of animal skins. Imagine you wear such shoes all day long in Japanese hot summer. How comfortable when you take off your shoes!
by ... rate this post as useful

We do take our shoes off 2005/2/6 22:05
Well, at least in Germany people of course take their street shoes off and change into their home slippers in the entrance room often referred to as 'Flur' or 'Diele' before entering their apartment. Everyone I know and have ever visited in Germany does it that way as otherwise you would all the dirt from the streets into the apartment with you.
So, I don't really see why it is extraordinary that the Japanese take their shoes off in the genkan.
I'd think that apart from hygienic reasons it is also a kind of symbol for leaving the outside world behind when you step into your or a friend's house.
by sennyo rate this post as useful

preserves tatami 2005/2/7 06:35
As I understand it, it was also to prevent tearing the tatami (straw floor covering).

I like it because it does keep the floor cleaner.

I don't know why some people 'freak out' about taking off their shoes.

by hadashi is the best rate this post as useful

It's a good habit to get into 2005/2/7 11:06
When I had my apartment in Tokyo, the apartment company put it in the rental contract that I take off my shoes in the apartment. They said that they would keep some of my deposit if they found out that was wearing my shoes inside. So, I got into the habit of taking off my shoes. Now, I do it all the time. It is more comfortable and my house does stay cleaner.
by Suteebu rate this post as useful

Why wouldn't you? 2005/2/8 17:59
In Sweden it's also common sense to take your shoes off when you get home (or to someone else's home). And I can't see any reason why not to. You don't take your shoes off at work though, or in school (unless it's kindergarten or the very first years in school).
by Kristian rate this post as useful

one more 2005/2/9 13:37
For one thing it's hard to sit on the floor with Nike shoes on.
by cc rate this post as useful

we do it too 2005/2/11 16:24
I live in the US and we take our shoes off too. I don't know any house I've ever been too where it wasn't rude to keep your shoes on when walking in the house. I just don't see how keeping your shoes on when you walk on carpet or tatami or anything makes sense in a house.
by kris rate this post as useful

So who doesn't? 2005/2/11 18:53
So who eaxtly doesn't take ther shoes of at home? :P Seems most people around the world do.
by Kristian rate this post as useful

Culture clash 2005/2/11 23:26
My wife came from an upbringing where they didn't take their shoes off in the house. It drives me absolutely berserk when she's laying on the couch watching TV, with her shoes on.

Her reasoning was that it's a hassle to constantly put on and take off shoes, and the house gets dirty anyway, so why bother?

"Why bother"?! Gaaaaaahhh!!!!

In the winter and in wet weather, she'll take her shoes off, but in the dry weather, it does bother me a LOT (herein lies some of the cultural differences of an interracial relationship that no one talks about...)

But it seems more like the people I encounter had always worn shoes in the house until I came along :) Taking shoes off after wearing them all day just reinforces the fact that you're HOME.

I believe that taking your shoes off while at someone else's home not only signifies respect for their environment (by not wanting to dirty up their floors) but also signifies that they are important to you. You're ready to spend time with them and not just looking to bolt out the door at first opportunity. Just like taking your coat off when you get to their house.

by Eiji rate this post as useful

Culture Clash, Pt. 2 2005/2/11 23:29
Also forgot to mention...

There are some friends I visit, though, who just keep a nasty house to begin with and I keep my shoes on there because I might as well be outside. Spilled beer, ashtrays, pet hair..... [*ick*]

by Eiji rate this post as useful

Maybe..... 2005/2/15 18:22
While admitting that everyone should take their shoes off at home, I have to say that only in Japan have I seen a guest scream at the shoe. In England we say "An Englishman's home is his castle", which means that basically it is my home and I can do what I want inside it. However, in Japan a guest came to my home (with no tatami) and screamed (supernaturally)when I forgot to remove my shoes for an instant, showing fear of the shoe. Also when applying for Japanese citizenship, a social worker will visit your house and check that you remove your slippers in a proper Japanese way. Therefore, I merely wondered if there is not something more to this custom, perhaps linked to Shinto.
by Neil rate this post as useful

Neil, you are joking ?? 2005/2/15 18:58
Neil, are you joking about ''when applying for Japanese citizenship, a social worker will visit your house and check that you remove your slippers in a proper Japanese way'' ???
As much as I agree about taking shoes off outside (I've been well trained by my Japanese wife of 12 years !)you are joking, right !!!!! Maybe my wife should be forced to watch cricket if she wants to take British citizenship ??
by maltamark rate this post as useful

screaming 2005/2/15 20:01
As I'm Japanese, I don't know about the social worker thing, but I would imagine that people scream because entering a house with shoes on, for a lot of us, is basically the same as stepping into a place where you would sit flat on the floor with footwear that might have stepped on dog shit on the way. I'm not exaggerating.

Also, outdoor shoes in Japanese is "dosoku" which literally means "soil feet." We have a saying, "dosoku de fuminijiru (dishonorablly step on with outdoor footwear)" which means to dishonor horribly. To step on something with shoes where you're not supposed to has a nuance of putting mud on someone's face. I don't know the origin of this saying, although I naturally share the feeling.

All this will be excused if the place was meant to accept shoes in the first place (as in western style hotel rooms or places like Eiji's home). In places like that however, I would literally frown at people who eat food that was accidentally dropped on that floor. I'd say, "Yuk! That floor might have been stepped on by shoes that may have touched dog shit!" (which you have to admit is true).

Of course, when Rome I do as the Romans do. Whenever I travel to certain exotic places, I switch my mind and accept that everything is basically the same as the toilet floor, and if I should get sick, that's because I was too weak.

Btw, stepping on tatami with shoes is out of the question no matter what style of living you choose, because it would just be too difficult to clean the dirt or maintain the woven surface if you step on it with hard soles. Would you accept people who step on your pillow or a woven straw chair with shoes on? I think not.

Also, I doubt that Shinto has nothing to do with this, because again, Thailand shares quite a big shoes-off culture. And my bible teachers said that the reason people in the bible kissed Jesus's foot is because feet were considered as the most dirty place of the body and to kiss that would be the best way to show respect.

by Uco rate this post as useful

typo 2005/2/15 20:04
I meant to say,
"I doubt that Shinto has anything to do with this"
by Uco rate this post as useful

Why? 2005/2/16 10:52
Same reason why people in Hawaii take the sands off their feet?
by cc rate this post as useful

At least... 2005/2/16 21:41
At least uco gave a sensible answer, cheers mate....oh and I wasn't joking about the guys coming round to check your house when you apply to be a Japanese citizen. They check your house to see if you are living in a Japanese way and interview your neighbours to see if you act like a Japanese. I am not judging but I think its an interesting idea
by Neil rate this post as useful

Neil... 2005/2/17 01:54
or anyone else, any other interesting ways they test your "Japaneseness" ?
by maltamark rate this post as useful

a couple 2005/2/17 02:02
I heard they examine your bathing arrangements to check you have a Japanese style Bath and also that you separate your rubbish (garbage) in the correct way. Additionally there are the usual langauge tests.
This is from a story in the Japan Times by a man who went through the process and was quite happy with it and said that he was treated very well...it was just a little different
by Neil rate this post as useful

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