Do You Know The Japanese Slipper Culture?
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Do You Know The Japanese Slipper Culture?

Views: 117     Author: ORIES     Publish Time: 2018-08-07      Origin: Site

Perhaps the most pervasive element of traditional Japanese daily culture - after bowing and politeness is the genkan. Whether entering a home, modern or old, whether entering a doctor's clinic or a visitor centre, the first impression on peering inside is: "wow, what a lot of shoes!"

The genkan today is the area of national transition from outside to inside; put most simply the genkan is where one leaves one's footwear on entering. While the genkan solves the problems of where to remove one's shoes and where to leave them, it raises the question: "What next?"

Slipper culture in Japan

Slipper culture in Japan

Trade your outdoor footwear for indoor slippers as you enter within a Japanese home.

If the purpose of the genkan is to confine dirty footwear to an area at the entrance, then what happens beyond this token area of the outdoors? Firstly, look around and there will almost invariably shelving against one wall providing space to place one's footwear. The same space may be occupied by slippers (suripa).

In that case, the protocol is to take out the slippers, put them on the raised area at the entrance, step out of your shoes straight into the slippers and then place your shoes on the shelf where the slippers were. Some hot springs and restaurants have numbered shoe lockers at the entrance, in which case that is where you place your shoes, remembering of course to lock them in and take the key with you. Crucial, in the genkan, is not to place either slippers or socks down on the lower floor, which is considered dirty.

Some establishments, minshuku, pensions and some hotels, will have a line of slippers at the entrance all pointing inwards for ready use. This is a welcoming sign, and there is something very relaxing about trading outer footwear for slippers that is akin to changing out of one's street clothes into yukata - it is both a physical and mental transition towards relaxation!

If you are greeted with a line of slippers, don't be surprised if however many you try on none of them seem to quite fit. Don't even bother asking whether they have larger sizes. I have seen the largest plate-footed sumo wrestler and the most delicately-footed Japanese beauty slipping into identically sized slippers, its not about foot size, its about technique.

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