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House Rules in Japan

Shoes and Slippers

It is a custom in Japan to remove one's shoes just after entering a home. The area just inside the entrance of a Japanese home is called a genkan. The genkan is always one-step lower than the main part of the house. After stepping up into the main part of the house it is a custom to turn your shoes so that they face the outside. 

Before you go to Japan, you might want to invest in some new socks. Holes in the socks could be embarrassing. 

After removing your shoes at the genkan it is a custom to put on slippers which are usually in front of the genkan or in the immediate area. They are supposed to be "one size fits all" but are almost always too small. Remember that Japanese tend to have small feet.

The slippers can be worn until you leave. However, they are to be removed before entering any room with tatami mats. Do not walk on the tatami with your slippers on. The proper footwear for tatami is socks or bare feet.

You must also remove your slippers when entering the bathroom. DON'T WORRY, you will not have to go barefoot into the bathroom! There will be another set of slippers that are only used in the bathroom. Upon leaving the bathroom don't forget to change slippers again, as it is pretty embarrassing to walk in the other parts of the house with the bathroom slippers.

Taking Off Shoes
Remove your shoes when entering someone's home.

The Genkan
Put on slippers after removing your shoes.
Tatami Mats
Remove slippers when entering a room with TATAMI mats.
Glossary of Terms


genkan The area just inside the main entrance of
Japanese homes where shoes are
exchanged for slippers.


tatami A tightly woven straw mat used in traditional Japanese style rooms. The size of homes and land in Japan is often measured by how many tatami mats fit in the area. One tatami mat is counted as "1 jou". 2 mats are counted as "1 tsubo".
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