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Japan in context: homes

Japanese homes: always a step up.
You don’t just enter a Japanese house, you go (or step) up into it. Every house I’ve been in has been the same: inside the front door is a little ground-level reception area, the function of which is to kick off your shoes and put on a pair of (provided) slippers. You never ever enter a home in your outdoor shoes. The step up into the house from the reception area is like a portal….it’s a gateway into the family’s domestic life, a change of elevation.

Now, for people in the western world, slippers are…..well…..just slippers. Things you put on when you get home from work for comfort about the house. For the Japanese, however, they are much more than that. There are observances which you need to know about. Let me explain…..

You may always enter a Japanese home wearing slippers, but you should never enter a tatami room with them on. Tatami rooms are usually bedrooms,

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sometimes lounges and dining rooms, where you always enter in your stockinged feet. That’s cardinal rule number 1.
Cardinal rule number 2……well, it’s back to toilet humour again, because the toilet must never be entered wearing your slippers, and certainly not in your stockinged feet. The toilet is regarded as an unhygenic place so, when you enter the toilet, you put on the toilet slippers, which will be just inside the door.

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And don’t forget to take them off before you leave.
The first domestic toilet I used happened to be a man’s urinal closet (most unusual), and when I opened the door, there were the slippers waiting for me to step into them. I couldn’t believe the fuss being made about stepping in and out of the little room, but…….there you have it……..only in Japan.

The nett result of all this is that, if you are a slipper manufacturer or importer in Japan, you will never be short of business. And because Japanese people are generally shorter and smaller than westerners like me, I have yet to find a pair of slippers that actually fit me.

You can also expect some rooms to be almost furniture-less. The first lounge-diner I entered had no more than a typical Japanese low level dining table with a few cushions on the floor. And yes, you have to get used to sitting at floor level to eat at such tables. Very un-western, but you quickly get used to it.

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And the bathroom will usually be designed as a ‘wet room’, with a small deep bathtub for soaking, and a wet shower area next to it. The idea is to shower first, then soak in the bath tub….making sure you don’t take soap suds into the bath, because someone may come after you to have a soak in the same water.
Remember those days when you shared the same bathwater with a kid brother or sister? Just like that….but without the bath bubbles and the rubber duck….. 🙂