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Why do the Japanese take their shoes off at the entrance to the home?

Shahar1992

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I have always wonder why do they have this custom.
What is the reason for it?.
Is it a religious thing or superstitious or simply out of hygenic concerns.
 

mdchachi

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The really odd thing when you think about it, is why other cultures don't do this? Imagine NYC in the late 1800s.

There are some photographs taken for Harper’s Weekly, before and after photos of street corners in New York in 1893 and then in 1895. And the before pictures are pretty astonishing, people were literally shin-high or knee-high in this muck that was a combination of street gunk, horse urine and manure, dead animals, food waste, and furniture crap.

Did people not take off their shoes?

Even with millions of kids growing up watching Mr. Rogers change into his house shoes on every episode in the 1960s, it seems it didn't catch on.
 
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It's a custom among most Alaskans to take your shoes off when entering a dwelling. Boots tend to accumulate a lot of snow and grit. In summer, the custom relaxes--except in my own home, which is ruled by a Japanese woman.
 

thomas

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It's a custom among most Alaskans to take your shoes off when entering a dwelling.

It is quite common in my family (the European one, not just the Japanese) to take off shoes indoors. On the other hand, if you have wooden floors or tiles (and no carpets) guest wouldn't be asked to take them off. Shoes on a sofa or a bed as seen in movies? Unthinkable.

Some old threads on the same topic:

Do you take off your shoes? | Japan Forum

Taking off shoes before entering a house: Apparently not a universal value | Japan Forum
 

nice gaijin

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in light of recent studies that show just how dirty the bottom of your outside shoes can be, I am appalled that Americans continue to wear shoes indoors, and grind that bacteria into the flooring and (ugh) carpet. So gross.
 
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You know, funny that. My mom used to be really strict about this back when we lived in places with carpets (that were rented; that probably contributed to it too). The rule was, no shoes past the entrance where the door is. Ever. I always assumed, correctly I think, that she just didn't want mud and dirt getting into the carpet. The rule was only dropped when my parents bought a home with hardwood flooring. I was really glad about this at the time because I thought taking shoes off and putting them back on over and over again was annoying.

But yeah, while taking off your shoes when entering the house isn't exactly the norm where I live, I wouldn't be surprised if a household requested or required it, especially if it's a place that's being rented.
 

nice gaijin

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And then this popped up in my feed today. Tracking crap in from outside into your house is still gross, whether it makes you sick or not.
 
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That video is misleading. No, tracking bacteria from your shoes onto the floor does not put you at risk for contracting disease, unless you're in the habit of licking the floor. In fact, these same bacteria are all over the place: on the door knobs, in the sink, on purses, and especially on your keyboard. In fact if you clean your floors on a regular basis, your floor is probably much cleaner than your keyboard regardless of whether you wear shoes in the house.

What actually puts you most at risk of consuming fecal bacteria is mishandling of raw meat, or failing to cook it properly (especially ground meats due to the way they're processed). That's why it's called "food poisoning": it almost always comes from food.

There are legitimate concerns regarding tracking mud, ruining carpets, etc. But spreading bacteria is not really one of them.
 
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