Apr 11, 2013

Take off your shoes!


I had a home stay experience in the U.S. when I was a college student. (Long time ago, but not in the Stone Age.) One evening I was watching TV with my host family and suddenly smelled something awful like rotten eggs. It was from the bare feet of my host brother who had just taken off his shoes. He was such a sweet person, but I couldn't stand the odor. I said "I'm very sleepy. Good night" to everyone and rushed to my room.

Many Asians have smelly feet as well, but  we fortunately have more chances to take off shoes and dry our feet during the day than the Westerners. At least you  have to  remove your shoes before entering houses, including your own.   

Any Japanese houses, no matter how small,  have an entrance space called genkan (玄関 げんかん), where you remove your shoes. The genkan area is often lower than the living space level to prevent the dirt on the shoes from sweeping into the houses.

Don't forget. It is extremely rude to get in someone's house with your shes on. 

At someone's home it is best to arrange your shoes neatly with the toes facing the door.  At some Japanese-style restaurants and izakaya (kind of bar) you are required to put them in the built-in shoe rack.

If you are offered slippers, change to them; however, you must take them off when entering the  tatami-mat rooms, because we sit directly on the tatami mats and sometimes even take a nap on them. To us, slippers are cleaner than shoes, but dirtier than socked feet.  We don't like the idea that our "sacred relaxing space" gets dirty with filthy slippers,  even if the room is covered with dust and dirtier than slippers. (Strange, huh?) 

Well, today's useful expression is :  おじゃまします ojamashimasu. 
This literally means "I'll bother you. " We say when you get into someone's house.

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