It’s something we’ve seen in many movies and series, read about it in magazines and novels, yet it’s something quite unknown for most of us. We’re talking about the Japanese custom of removing the shoes when somebody enters a house.
This tradition started in the ancient Asia, where the houses were usually raised about 2 feet upon the ground, for ventilation issues. Then it was obligatory to remove your shoes and leave then on the entrance, which was usually at ground level.
Today in modern Asia, no matter the type of house, the entrance is usually a bit lower than the rest of the house, so whenever somebody arrives no matter the weather the shoes are left there and no dirt will get to the rest of the house. A very practical custom indeed.
The reasons are much more than that one, it is also based on health factors. As you might know, Asians practice many physical activities barefoot, as they believe in the good effects this has for health as having to wear shoes the whole day can be oppressing and also does not let the feet to breathe, so being barefoot at home serves as a sort of exercise.
Slippers shoes at hotels, restaurants and other places
This tradition it’s not only limited for private houses. Restaurants and hotels are other places where you must leave your shoes at the entrance. Some places they provide a pair of slippers for the guests, a very comfortable option as well. Usually the slippers are located at the entrance, in some shelves or the host will provide them as soon as the guest arrives.
Very special cases are the toilet rooms. Many restaurants and hotels have special slippers for their guests when they have to enter this space. It is important to remember that these shoes are only meant to be for the toilet room, so they have to be put on as soon as you get in there, and leave them before you leave the room, they should never enter another space of the building. To make this transition easy for guests, especially foreigners who are not used to the Japanese traditions, there’s usually a wooden floor, different to the rest where the slippers are supposed to be left, making it very easy to remember.
Slippers at tatami
As it’s been mentioned, there are two options when getting into a building in Japan, either barefoot or with some slippers the host provides.
There is a very special and important case to remember and it is tatami floor, which some people might recognize because of sports like Karate. One must always leave the shoes behind, only barefoot is allowed on this type of floor.
As one can see there is a long tradition behind slippers, much more than just comfort, sure it’s a great story to remember the next time you wear yours.
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