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Japanese Room Shoes: What Every American Should Know

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If you enjoy learning about foreign cultures, then you should learn all about Japanese room shoes. Also called uwabaki, or Japanese slippers, these shoes have a rich history and are still worn throughout the country of Japan today. In addition, many people all over the world have embraced Japanese uwabaki and the rituals surrounding them due to the unique benefits they provide their homes and families. 

Read on to learn more about what every American should know about Japanese room shoes

Japanese Room Shoe History

The Japanese people started the tradition of removing their shoes before entering their own homes and the homes of others during the Japanese Heian period, which occurred between the years 794 and 1185 AD. This tradition is believed to have started in an attempt to keep the Japanese flooring free from dirt and debris that shoes could bring in from the outdoors. 

Unlike modern flooring, the most popular type of Japanese flooring at the time was the straw mat. Keeping this flooring clean was especially important because house residents and visitors not only walked these mats but also sat and slept on them. 

While exactly when Japanese room shoes were invented is still unknown, historians suspect it was around this time period or shortly thereafter. Wearing these house slippers when indoors was likely a welcome alternative to walking around homes barefoot or in socks after removing outdoor shoes. 

While Japanese flooring has advanced since the Heian period, the tradition of removing shoes before entering homes in Japan remains. 

Room Shoe Etiquette in Japan

Today, Japanese room shoes are even more popular than ever in their native country. In fact, not only do household residents have their own room shoes to change into as soon as they enter their own homes, but many homeowners even leave out additional pairs of room shoes for guests to change into when they arrive at their homes. 

These shoes are stored in a special entry room present in most Japanese homes called genkans. Genkans are relatively small versions of American foyers. The genkan floor is typically composed of one lower area where people who enter the home remove and store their outdoor shoes and one elevated area where home residents and guests put their room shoes on before they enter the home. 

Not removing your outdoor shoes and replacing them with a pair of room shoes before entering a Japanese home as a guest is considered disrespectful to the homeowner. 

How to Embrace Japanese Room Shoes at Home

Many Americans today are embracing Japanese room shoes. You can find these house shoes in a variety of styles, designs, and colors. When you embrace the Japanese room shoe tradition at your home, you can look forward to cleaner floors that lack the dirt and debris that outdoor shoes can deposit on them when they are worn inside. 

Start the uwabaki tradition in your home by purchasing a pair of these house shoes for yourself and each one of your family members. Place each set near the entryway of your home and instruct all family members to change into these shoes when they enter the home. These house shoes are often much more comfortable than outdoor shoes, and most are made of high-quality materials that stay in great shape for many years. 

If you purchase uwabaki in a brick-and-mortar shop during a trip to Japan, keep in mind that Japanese shoe sizes differ greatly from American sizes. For this reason, find a sales associate who can help you determine your Japanese room shoe size before you purchase a set. However, you can now also purchase these Japanese slippers online if you do not plan to visit Japan anytime soon. 

Japanese room shoes have a rich history and are still extremely popular in the country where they originated. If you would like to keep the floors of your home cleaner while embracing a little bit of Japanese culture, then encourage your family to begin wearing Japanese room shoes inside of your home instead of their outdoor shoes.