Q. Why do the Japanese take off their shoes on the shinkansen and airplanes?


People can occasionally be seen wearing slippers and walking along the hallways of posh Japanese hotels. Is it true that Westerners, who do not take off their shoes except when going to bed, find walking in the hallways without shoes to be equally shocking as walking without clothes?

On the other hand, many Japanese feel it is only proper to remove their shoes in Japanese–style homes––when entering the homes of others not to mention their own home; hence, they have no qualms about removing their shoes on the shinkansen and airplane.

It was only from the Meiji period (1868– 1912) onward that shoes began to be worn by the common people and although one hundred years have already elapsed since the Meiji Restoration, perhaps shoes not yet having adjusted to the feet may be the reason behind the Japanese not being able to relax unless the shoes are removed.

There are some Japanese airline companies that offer slippers to their passengers as a gift and there are many Westerners who make use of these slippers. Like the proverb, “When in Rome do as the Romans do,” perhaps this is not a bad idea after all.