This is the door and entryway to our Tokyo apartment. The genkan. In Japan, all homes and apartments are built with a genkan. It is a small space separated from the main living space, where you leave your outside shoes, and change into inside shoes — usually slippers. In Japan you ALWAYS remove your shoes when you enter a home — yours or anyone else’s. It is considered to be extremely bad manners to wear outside shoes inside the home. This applies to other locations as well. Any restaurants that have traditional Japanese seating require that you remove your outside shoes first. If you are entering a room with tatami mats on the floors, you also do not wear slippers. Gyms require that you change your outside shoes for gym appropriate shoes that have never been worn outside. You have to have a dedicated pair of gym shoes. And… if you anticipate entering a place where you need to remove your shoes… socks should be worn. Bare feet are frowned upon.
Our shoe cupboard in our genkan. Actually, I like this social rule… a lot. I like leaving the outside… outside. I have never liked wearing my shoes in the house. We walk through all kinds of stuff outside. Why would I want that inside all over my floors, carpets and furniture? Even in our home in the US we always take off our shoes at the door… We just don’t have this kind of convenient shoe storage near the door. How nice!
Also, sort of strangely, the WC or toilet room of our apartment is in the entryway. I have been trying to figure out why that is. Almost all Japanese homes and apartments have a separated bathroom. The toilet is in a completely separate room, and may not even be close to the rest of the bathroom. Not all of them open into the genkan, however. I suppose maybe that is considered to be another somewhat “unclean” area where you might not want to wear your indoor shoes? I will be talking about this little WC room more later… Japanese toilets are amazing.
Slippers. Yes… knowing ahead of time about these cultural differences, we bought slippers to wear in the apartment. We even have slippers for our visitors to wear when they come. When you visit someone’s Japanese home, it is common for them to provide slippers for you to wear while you are there… and these are kept for other guests to wear for other visits. Another good reason to wear socks… you never know who has been wearing these slippers before you… lol.
If you come visit me, I will give you slippers to wear so you feel welcome and at home.