Do you need to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home in Japan? It’s pretty obvious, but yes. I’m from the UK, and some people have no-shoe homes, and other people have shoes-okay homes – either way, when I enter someone’s house for the first time, I ask them!
In Japan, 99.9% of the time, you will need to take your shoes off – so it might be worth thinking about what shoes and socks you’re going to wear. I made the mistake of wearing some extremely tightly fastened Converse boots when entering a bar with almost no space for taking my shoes off. I was crouching down, pretty much in the small entrance of the store, struggling to unfasten my shoes while the staff awkwardly waited for me!
So, where do you take them off, and what do you do with them?
When you enter someone’s house, there will be a small area to take your shoes off. Many homes will also have a small step when you enter the main part of the building – make sure to take your shoes off before here! It’s common practice to put your shoes together neatly so that they point towards the exit.
Where else do I need to take my shoes off?
There are many places you need to take your shoes off (and sometimes change into slippers). You should always take your shoes off when entering a tatami-mat room. You’ll probably be required to take them off at the doctor’s office, or in traditional-style Japanese restaurants or drinking establishments. When drinking, it can be easy to forget! I know at least a few times, I’ve gone to the bathroom in a Japanese bar, put on the bathroom slippers, done my business, and completely forgotten to leave my slippers in the bathroom! Don’t worry though, I’ve even seen Japanese people do this, too.
Do I have to use slippers in my house and my bathroom?
Many Japanese people have house-slippers, and even more have bathroom slippers. When you have a guest over, it might be a nice touch to put some slippers outside of the toilet. But if you don’t want to, don’t worry! It’s your house, and it’s unlikely you’ll have guests over all the time, so there’s no need to buy slippers if you don’t want to. And if you’re living in a small flat, it might even feel stupid to have bathroom slippers!
Should I wear socks if I’m going to take my shoes off?
If you’re like me, then you will be wearing socks no matter what! But many people also enjoy being foot-naked. Really, you don’t have to wear socks, but if it’s something formal, you should probably wear what is required for that formal situation. If it’s something casual, then feel free to whip those feet out!
What shoes should I wear to an interview in Japan?
If it’s an interview at the 7/11 down the road, you’ll probably be okay in casual footwear, assuming that they don’t draw too much attention. If it’s a career interview, then men should always wear black shoes to match your suit. Women should wear black shoes with a slight heal.
I want to buy shoes in Japan, but I don’t know what size I am.
Unlike many countries that use sizes that are more complex than required (different size types for men and women and for adults and children), Japan keeps it nice and simple by using centimetres. So all you need to do is google your shoe size in centimetres, and if for some reason you can’t do this – just try some shoes on until you figure it out.