Final Construction, Japanese Style
Construction-Site Entrance a large hotel in Kyoto -- Copyright 2019 Jeffrey Friedl,
iPhone 7+ + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/30 sec, f/1.8, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Construction-Site Entrance
a large hotel in Kyoto

The scene above is the entrance to a new large hotel nearing completion of construction. The workers putting the finishing touches on the interior have left their shoes at the entrance, and are presumably walking in socks or slippers. This mimics what one does at a Japanese home.

When the hotel opens, people will walk in this public area with shoes like any other business, but until the construction company turns it over to the owner, they treat it with great care, so that it's turned over in pristine condition.

I doubt that this would ever happen in America. When I last lived in America, asking a visitor (such as the cable installer) to take their shoes off inside the house would be met with the same face as if I had asked them to take their pants off.

All 6 comments so far, oldest first...

Some companies use slipcovers for their shoes in the USA when they visit these days. Not the same but better. We have a ‘Please remove shoes’ sign at our home. Some people ask, “Really?” and I say, “Yes, Really”.

I remember the first time I was asked to remove shoes at someone’s house (long before I ever contemplated that I’d live in Japan). I was in high school or early college, and I was tutoring a Chinese professor’s son in programming, at their house. I remember thinking it was decidedly odd, but I had no problem with it. I’m more enlightened these days. 🙂 —Jeffrey

— comment by Rick Hancock on March 24th, 2019 at 1:20pm JST (4 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

We moved from the city to a rural town with a lot of farmes some twenty years ago. And although most farmers run modern farms with high-tech machinery and computers have become commonplace, it is still custom to take of your (dirty) shoes when entering a house. I will not say it happens often (our town has lots of families that have no ties with farming) but taking your shoes off is not strange at all.

— comment by Chiel on March 25th, 2019 at 4:15am JST (4 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I’m at our ski house in Vermont this weekend. We have an entry room – appropriately called a “mud room” – where everyone takes off their shoes. While some workmen are reluctant, the plumber team here last week were removing their shoes before I could even ask.

— comment by Scott Abbey on March 25th, 2019 at 9:09am JST (4 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

We don’t get strange looks when asking a visitor to take off their shoes (although the telephone people just put on shoe covers). But I live in the Bay Area, which is a notoriously “liberal” part of the US.

I lived a few years in the middle of Vancouver Island … it was common to take shoes off because about 1500mm of rain fell each year, with most of that in a 6 month period

I lived in Cupertino (your “bay area”) when I wanted people to take shoes off in my house and got the strange looks. Maybe things have changed in the last 17 years… —Jeffrey

— comment by PeterL on March 25th, 2019 at 1:21pm JST (4 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

If you live in an area with a more significant Asian population (east coast New York City area) you’ll get about 50/50. They often say no they can’t but it’s like their used to the request from Asian households. We’re lawsuit crazy here so God forbid one of these workers that comes to your house were to slip and fall with their shoes off. Sometimes you can get them to cover their feet in plastic bags. Some of them even bring their own rolled up mats to place down where they walk. Many refuse though. “My wife is from Japan, she’ll kill you if you come in here w/ shoes on, usually gets a lot of mileage”

If you’ve ever walked in a New York City street, subway station or subway car, I’m amazed at how you could NOT take on the japanese custom of removing your shoes.

PS: Looking forward to seeing /reading a post about the new Reiwa era in Japan from the JF perspective.

I’m not sure that I have much perspective on the name change, but my 16-year-old son, after hearing the new name announced (thereby cementing the concept of the era change in reality), commented that it made him feel old. 😀 —Jeffrey

— comment by Ronald Evans on April 2nd, 2019 at 10:33pm JST (4 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

LOL – grew up this way in Canada and creeps me out to see people here in the US walking around in a house with their shoes on. My (Canadian) wife still is perturbed when we have a Christmas party and I ask if guests mind if they take their shoes off when coming inside. You’d figure when you walk into someone’s house and you see a pile of 30 pairs of shoes at the door that would be your clue :-\

The concept is absolutely alien to most Americans. When I was in college, a professor hired me to tutor his kid in his house, and I was asked to take off my shoes. That was my first exposure to what I now know to be such a better system, but at the time it seemed weird, and I just chalked it up to the professor being… weird. Now, having lived most of my life in Japan, it’s difficult for me to think of any other system as natural, but if I recall my first visit to the professor’s house, I remind myself what it’s like to be asked to take your shoes off when it’s absolutely not something you’d ever even heard of or considered before. —Jeffrey

— comment by Geoff Hudson on August 21st, 2019 at 10:43pm JST (4 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink
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