Removing Ones Shoes

Shoes

Removing one’s shoes / 靴を脱ぐこと

You will not find people wearing shoes inside the average Japanese home. This is partly because the culture places great stock in separating “outside” things from “inside” things. The idea, by the way, applies just as much to relationships as it does to buildings. Another contributing factor is the Japanese predilection for cleanliness. Outside shoes are left in the entryway to keep the dirt from the inside of the house. This is also why there are a separate set of slippers used for the room with the toilet in it.

This separation, dirty from clean, outside from inside, also conveys a sense of respect for a particular space, and a change in mindset. Upon entering many martial arts training halls or temples, for example, one is often asked to remove one’s shoes. The same is true at most Japanese schools. When students arrive they change from outside shoes to hall shoes at the entrance.

When the people sheltering in what used to be a school begin to separate their living area from the rest of everything by cleaning it and forbidding the wearing of outside shoes on certain floors, they attach a sense of respect to it. The simple action of changing shoes validates the space as a place where people live, and as a place people care about.

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