Friday, April 13, 2012

No Shoe Policy in Japan :: The Benefits of Leaving Your Shoes at the Front Door

Did you know that shoes are not worn in Japanese homes? 

When I first arrived in Japan one of my first cultural experiences was to remove my shoes in the entrance hallway (called a Genkan), place my shoes on a storage shelf and then put on some complimentary slippers before stepping up into the house.
A Japanese Genkan - notice the lower entrance area and cupboard for storage of shoes.
image via housenary
Japanese house slippers available for guests to use
Typical Ryokan (Japanese Guest House) entrance
image via you in japan

Whilst I thought this was a great idea as it prevents dirt being brought into the home or damage to floor finishes it is also a very important expectation of social etiquette and cleanliness in Japan. 

There are quite a few house design principles that are present in older Japanese homes that are generally not seen in Australian homes. Some of these are:
  • Tatami mats (made from rice straw) for the floor finish in the main living, dining and sleeping areas.
  • With a tatami floor you sit on cushions on the floor and NOT on chairs (no lounges or sofas).
  • Similarly with sleeping, you sleep on futon mattresses spread out on the tatami flooring and NOT in a western style bed.
I will highlight some of these differences in more detail in future posts.

A Japanese dining room with tatami flooring
image via blimi
Futon mattresses spread out on tatami flooring. When you wake the matresses are stored in the surrounding built-in wardrobes 
image via marumura
When you are spending a lot of time on the floor it is so important to keep the floor clean and a "no shoe policy" does just this as well as protecting the delicate tatami flooring. Also when mattresses, pillows and cushions are stored away a room takes on a minimalist feeling of calm with everything hidden from view when not used.

Most of us have a natural flooring of some sort whether it be timber, an expensive wool rug or natural stone. If we could implement this policy in our homes there would be so many benefits:
  • Less washing, vacuuming and cleaning of floors, rugs and carpets
  • Less damage to timber floors, carpets & rugs from heals, dirty shoes and stains
  • Less dust in the house for allergy sufferers
  • Less noise for our neighbours
  • Cleaner floors for children to play on
Personally I would like to implement a "no shoes policy" when I return. As this is not the cultural norm in Australia I will let you know how this goes with my friends and family!

In the meantime I would love to hear of your stories if you have tried to implement this in your home.

Have fun.

4 comments:

  1. I love this post! Darwin is very much "no shoe" policy. Perhaps from the meld of cultures, and I prefer no shoes in my house. Ours are kept at the front door. It's a VERY difficult habit to change though I found in some Southern states, and I felt rude asking people to take off their shoes, as you're right - it's not for everyone in Australia. My Sth African in-laws just refused.
    On the humorous side, friends have been known to realise the next day they've gone home in somebody elses thongs. Ha!

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    Replies
    1. Great comment :) Can not wait to see the confusion when we return!

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  2. I think this is a cultural difference. I hate it when people think they're doing the right thing by taking their shoes off, I have to mop the floor after they leave. In this tropical climate the sweaty footprints and chance of catching plantar warts or tinea concerns me. I like the idea of guest slippers, or even leaving their socks on. love this site, thanks for all the info.

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Thanks for your thoughts. I read every comment and appreciate your feedback.
Have fun, Lisa

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