Japanese Customs for Indoors: Shoes are Off, Uwabaki Slippers are On
You should already know that Japan has a custom of taking off shoes when indoors. You’ll also likely encounter this practice in many places when traveling Japan. With that in mind, we’d like to show you this culture in every day settings.
Slippers lined in a row, https://www.flickr.com/photos/chidorian/
The slippers that you wear inside a Japanese school are called “uwabaki”. Many times these slippers are color coded by school year.
Students put the shoes they took off at the school entrance into a shoe cupboard. Naturally, this prevents them from tracking in mud but the main point is that through changing your shoes you’re making it a habit to follow the rules. It’s very important to maintain order in public places. This changing of the shoes is practiced as a part of Japanese education/culture from childhood starting as early as kindergarten.
Shoe lockers in a bathhouse, http://sentosakaba.com/
There are stores all over Japan where you may take off your shoes to enter. Like izakaya pubs, Japanese-style restaurants, bathhouses… etc.
Banquet hall in a ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurant), http://www.maholova-minds.com/biz/group/
For example, in the banquet halls for a ryotei you eat while sitting directly on top of the tatami mats. So you must take off your shoes.
Also, there are sometimes keys for the shoe lockers. It’s not a problem if the key is marked with a number like in the bathhouse photo, but sometimes they’re marked with hiragana or kanji so you better learn these! You lock and unlock it by putting in the wood board with the same character. This type of key is especially common at izakaya pubs. Make sure not to lose your key and forget where your shoes are after you’ve spent some time drinking sake!