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Why do Japanese take their shoes off?

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My wild guess 2005/2/17 07:37
From a native's pov, I do think that the shoes issue and bath issue are weird points to be checked, because I know Japanese residents who choose to live with shoes on or choose to bath English style and laid carpets on their arai-ba.

But I can understand that it's important to "know and get used to" the Japanese way of maintaining the floor and bath boiler so that the new citizen will not have/cause trouble when dealing with Japanese landlords or maitanence companies. In the same sense, garbage is one of the most serious problems that neighbors may face with foreign residents.

And I suppose the easiest way to show that you know and are used to the Japanese way is to show that you're actually doing it now.

by Uco rate this post as useful

dog crap 2007/8/20 06:05
i now take my shoes off because one time i walked dog turd into my home
by gurt rate this post as useful

shoes off 2007/8/20 06:55
DIDN'T WE HAD A SIMILAR POST A WHILE BACK??
I must disagree STRONGLY with those who say that Europeans don't take their shoes off inside. First of all Europeans aren't one nationality but many, with diffrent customs. Lots of them come from all around the world...
My family has been living in the same area of Europe for over 1000 years and all my great grand parents always took their shoes off when coming inside. They must have learned it from their parents and thought us all. All the people we knew did it too.
We wore slipers inside. Not only that but we also changed from outside clothes to clothes only worn at home. The only time shoes were worn inside is when you visited someone that you didn't know very well. You and the hosts were dressed formally and you were invited in the formal living room, a room usually not used by the family everyday. You were expected to seat down and stay there. Your streets shoes were carefully wiped on a mat outside the front door then again on an inside mat so they likely didn't dirty the floor much.
When visiting friends and relatives it was the custom to take your shoes off and walk around in slippers you carried from your home. Many older homes (lots of people live in places that are 200 years old and more) have wood floors that are strong but can be scratched tiny pebbles, under the shoes. Some house have tiled floors,especially in the entrance, kitchen, etc. but generally people remove their shoes out of respect.
Quite often the visitors will start removing their shoes, the host will say please don't.,.the guest will insist and remove the shoes and the host will be pleased.
Things may have changed since i lived there, especially with younger people but I know, for visiting regularly, that it is still the custome to remove one's shoes In many homes.
by Plantagenesta rate this post as useful

its not just a japanese thing 2007/8/20 08:09
i am american and my mom has pounded into my that i have to take off my shoes walking into a house so its just a normal thing for me now. its funny because people who are not used to it get the evil eyes from me and my friends when they forget to take off there shoes lol
by NYminut rate this post as useful

Funny 2007/8/20 10:13
I just clean up the floor of my room completely this afternoon just in order to be comfortable with my shoes taken up... After moving to the U.S. one month ago, I cannot bear life with shoes any longer.
by anoir rate this post as useful

Cleanliness? 2007/9/4 15:40
In Singapore, almost all homes, you have to take your shoes off before you enter.

It's basically cleaner?
I wouldn't want whatever stuff i stepped on outside to be in my home.

by Amelia rate this post as useful

Re: Removing Shoes 2007/9/5 04:18
Removing your shoes helps keep floors of a house clean. It is required that you remove your shoes at the front door of someone's home and put on slippers that are provided by the host. You may remove these slippers when entering a tatami room but must put them back on when leave it. Also, when you have to go to the washroom, remove the slippers you wear around the house and change into special toilet slippers. When your door, remove these slippers and put the house slippers back on.
by Melissa rate this post as useful

To shoe or not to shoe. 2007/9/5 09:05
I've only been in Tokyo a short time, but I wanted to share my impressions of this shoe issue. In general, I've always taken my shoes off wherever I've lived. I tend to walk around in bare feet at home. However, I do not immediately take them off. Usually, when I get home, I am carrying a lot of stuff: laptop bag, mail, lunch bag, etc. So I'll put that all away first, and then change clothes, which obviously involves taking off my shoes.

I have to disagree about whether it keeps the house cleaner or not though. I've always been a clean person, but in my current apartment, the floor is just always covered in dust, no matter how much I sweep or clean the floor. My feet get pretty dirty. I know they wouldn't be dirty if I wore slippers, but I don't find slippers to be comfortable. In addition, one of the offices in my building (where I work) requires that you take your shoes off. The floor is also pretty dirty. I guess the point is that the floor stays cleaner if you take your shoes off before entering, but I just haven't seen that it would be so much cleaner than just wiping your shoes off on a mat before entering.

My funny anecdote, at least to me: I was lucky enough to have my refrigerator delivered (for free!) to my apartment. The men carrying the refrigerator were so worried about removing their shoes, while carrying the refrigerator, that one of them almost dropped it on his foot. They were having such a difficult time balancing the fridge and trying to remove their shoes that I just told them it was ok with me if they kept their shoes on. And this is all within 2 feet of the doorway. I just though it was kind of funny.

by Bob rate this post as useful

Take them off! 2007/9/7 01:30
I take my shoes off at the door before I enter my house.
I cannot imagine stepping on someone else's spit outside and bringing that spit back into my house. I'll freak out.
by Ling rate this post as useful

erm 2007/9/10 04:01
It's dirty to keep your shoes on inside? lol no way.
Carpets are cleaned everyday, you wipe your shoes on a doormat and see if there's any 'mud'.
If you are worried about cleanliness so much then you may as well wash your hands every few minutes and don't touch anything when your outside. People wear their shoes in my house and there's no way to call my house dirty. You make it seem as if you run around in mud and poop whilst outside haha :-P
by AntD rate this post as useful

Uh... 2007/9/10 20:44
I'm sorry, but are you implying that mud is the only unhygenic thing to be found on the sole of a shoe? Are you for real? If you rubbed the palsm of your hands on a busy street, then wiped them with a towel, would you feel your hands were clean enough to handle food?

Perhaps YOU clean your carpets every day, but not all of us have the time or money for that.

Lets face it. No matter what you think, it is safe to say that leaving shoes at the door IS more hygenic, whether you like that fact or not. sure, feet can sweat, but sweat is not even remotely as unhygenic as what you would find on your usual pavement.

Whether you choose to follow this tradition or not is totally down to personal choice. Regardless, people who are trying to say that "wearing shoes in the house is hygenic" are, in my belief, just trying to justify their own laziness, way they have been brought up, or ignorance.

Next people will be insisting that scrubbing your work surfaces with raw meat is more hygenic than a washcloth and water O_o

by AntD rate this post as useful

shoes in the house 2007/9/11 20:21
I also understand why someone would freak out if you accidentally stepped in the house with your shoes on. I mean, once is all it takes to soil the area (at the risk of sounding oh so obsessive compulsive). What I don't understand is that in other countries, some people claim to take their shoes off in the house but it's not as strict as in, say, Japan, so people would also occasionally walk around in shoes and not think anything of it. What's the point? Unless you clean the floor/carpet, it is dirty already so your socks/feet will get dirty too when you walk without your shoes on and it might as well be the same thing as keeping your shoes on. Am I thinking too much into it?
Also, if you have a baby in the house crawling around, isn't it disgusting that you would use shoes indoors?
Just some things that's been on my mind.
by shimaki rate this post as useful

Japanese living in other countries 2007/9/19 13:36
This is in response to the folowing comment:
-----------------------------
"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."
----------------------------
First of all, when Japanese go abroad they do not all abide by the customs of the country as you do.

I have lived in a house with Japanese people who were living abroad in my country. They took off their shoes, ate with chopsticks, spoke Japanese etc. Japanese do not "Do as the Romans do" when they go abraod.

When living in another country, you do not stop doing the things that come naturally to you, (ie. discarding all that you have learned and adopt a new way.) Values, ethics, the way things are done differ from country to country. Furthermore, even within the same the same country (in this case Japan) the values differ greatly between people. Cultural values may be the same as a whole.

When going abroad all Japanese do not obey all the customs and rules of other countries. If they did, eating with chopsticks, taking your shoes off before entering the house, eating rice, speaking Japanese, bowing, formality, saying 'Itadakimasu' before eating, etc would have to changed immediately according to what the above writer has to say.

Also, there are a lot of things that Japanese do abroad that would make a native scream and shout out loud.

In summation, people have a right to decide how they would like to live where ever they are livng. It is really up to that person, and every peron has their own value system as does each culture.

So, to be fair, if a Japanese person goes abroad, they should remember to 'Do as the Romans do' and make sure that every other Japanese does (which is impossible) or just remember that the world is a very big place filled with people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and values. Not just Japanese, but all peoples of all nations need to be more accepting and tolerant of other peoples customs and values.

Whether I take my shoes off or not is not the issue. It a matter of respect. Taking off your shoes in Japan is respectful in Japan. Taking off my shoes in my house in Japan is my choice. I am not Japanese, and I will not "Do as the Romans do" while living in Japan.

In an ideal world, things would all work great but, in the real world its not so easy.

by Nasu rate this post as useful

... 2007/9/19 15:49
Disregarding the cleanliness issue, and as mentioned in the fifth post, traditional Japanese homes have tatami floors. If you wear shoes on the tatami you destroy it. It'd be like wearing metal cleats on a hardwood floor.

To the poster who mentioned their landlord checking to make sure they took off their shoes in their apartment: they probably weren't trying to make sure you do it the Japanese way, they were more concerned that you don't destroy their floors.

by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

hygene 2007/12/12 05:50
so dirt from there shoes wont come in side.
by zac rate this post as useful

Hygene 2007/12/13 07:33
I'm a Japanese American and my reason for not wearing shoes in the house is simply because we don't want to get the floor dirty.

Asian people in general like to sit on the floor, or sleep on the floor which would be pretty gross if it were equivalent to the floor of a public area like a mall.

Some people not of Asian decentin America are also found taking off their shoes in the house with the similar reason of not wanting to get the floor dirty with mud and as Uco stated, "possibly dog shit."

by JapanGurl rate this post as useful

something about shoes 2007/12/13 23:41
Well, I think it's very logical to take off you shoes in the house. I am dutch and I always take my shoes off when I come from outside (sometimes I don't of course when I come home for five minutes and have to leave again). It's a bit more hygienic too, because there so much yucky stuff on the streets.
by Marvin rate this post as useful

What about this? 2007/12/31 12:27
When I go to Japan in march,I will want to do lots of walking/hiking so I will pack some walking boots in my suitcase. Now whe I arrive do I have to unpack them at the door or is carrying them through the house after unpacking ok,obviously I will make sure they are clean and not dropping mud everywhere. What does everyone else do?
by timj rate this post as useful

Must wear shoes 2008/1/28 06:31
Help! Bad feet, always wear Rx orthotics, cannot go barefoot nor wear regular house slippers. Should I take paper shoe covers when we visit Japan? Other suggestions?
by Vicki M rate this post as useful

shoes off 2008/1/28 06:51
Vicki
it is possible to visit Japan and never taking your shoes off in public places. this post is mainly about private homes! so if you don't go to a private home with tatami floors you don't have to worry. Some temples do have tatami floors and in some castles you would have to remove shoes to protect the old wood floors and the steep wood staircases so you will just have to skip those.
by sensei 2 rate this post as useful

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