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Removing Shoes in Japan

Removing shoes in Japan…. You may be aware that in Japan it is customary to remove shoes before entering indoor spaces. Indeed, this is a common practice, which as a visitor to Japan you are bound to encounter during your stay. On this page you’ll learn all you need to know about this Japanese custom.

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Basics of Removing Shoes in Japan

When entering a home, be sure to remove your shoes. If you visit a home in Japan, there will usually be an area just inside the entrance, called a genkan, for taking off your shoes. Your host will then likely offer you a pair of slippers, but if not, just enter the home in your stocking or bare feet.

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Removing shoes in Japan is not just limited to the inside of homes. Other places where taking off shoes is common include the insides of shrines and temples, some schools (although usually not college classrooms), and traditional Japanese inns and hot springs resorts.

Most public places requiring that shoes be removed will also provide a dedicated area, and in some cases a locker, for storing your shoes. Though you won’t need to remove your shoes in most commercial stores, shopping malls, restaurants, or office buildings, there are always exceptions, so when in doubt, scan the feet around you and do as others are doing.

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More Japan Shoe Etiquette

Bathrooms

Even after you have already removed your shoes inside a home or other place such as those mentioned above where shoe removal is required, when going to the bathroom you will normally find a special pair of slippers specifically for bathroom use only (located just inside the bathroom).

If you’re wearing a pair of home slippers, slip those off outside the bathroom and wear the bathroom slippers while answering nature’s calling inside the bathroom. Just don’t forget to leave those bathroom slippers inside the bathroom when you’re done, or you might get some horrified looks when you rejoin your hosts!

Gyms

If you go to a gym to work out in Japan, you’ll need to bring a pair of sneakers to be worn exclusively indoors. It is not acceptable in Japan to wear your outdoor shoes inside the gym. Many gyms provide rentals if you do not have your own pair of indoor sneakers.

You’re probably getting the gist of the custom of removing shoes in Japan by now. The main idea is to keep outdoor dirt and grime outside, and keep the indoors squeaky clean.

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