Thursday, May 1, 2014

Will Miss #51 - shoe removal culture (reflection)

One of my friends recently introduced me to the term "Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon" (aka the "frequency illusion"). This is when something is brought to your attention and then, coincidentally, something else of a similar nature occurs. For example, I was walking to a store recently and noticed that several cars parked along the street had solar-powered bobbing plastic flowers in pots. Later that same day, I was looking through my stash of (literally) thousands upon thousands of Japan photos (for pictures for this blog) and stumbled on a photo of exactly those plastic flowers as a prize in a UFO Catcher (claw game) machine.

In regards to this post's topic, I had a Baader-Meinhof experience that related to it within the last week or so. The number of this post for review came up shortly after an occasion in which someone had to come into my home, but refused to remove his shoes. Our apartment is strictly a "no shoes" zone because we want to keep the floors clean and not have our bare feet turn black when we walk on it (which is what happens in American apartments/homes in which you wear shoes).

In this case, an inspector was reviewing the apartments and a photographer was taking pictures of the interior of select places including ours. I was fine with them coming in, but the photographer claimed he was wearing orthopedic sneakers and couldn't walk on flat floors and refused to take off his shoes. Incidentally, I think this was a big, fat lie and he just didn't want to have to fuss for the short time he'd be walking around our apartment.

This incident made me think about how I appreciated the fact that it would not even be a question in Japan that the shoes would come off. In fact, refusing or putting up a fuss in any way would be considered an egregious lack of manners and respect. So, yes, I still have good reason to miss the shoe removal culture.


  1. In a lot of cases, these types of people (inspectors, repairmen, etc.) will typically have shoe covers similar to hair nets for this occasion. Comcast service folks will typically don these even before I request it.

  2. Similar to the above:

    Next time, offer him some plastic baggies and rubber bands to wear over the shoes if it's really that big a deal to him :-P

  3. I used to take my shoes off inside the house even before I lived in Japan.....largely bec it was more comfortable. Once I lived there I learned how sanitary as well as necessary, in that culture anyway, it is. My wife and I LOVE it so much that we have the same rule for those who visit us at home. The only exception has been when we've had a large group of people over. We don't have enough slippers for 18-20 people to wear when they are in our home. That is rare, however: maybe 2 times in the 4 years we have lived here in this house.

  4. If anyone ever argues against taking off their shoes in your house, lead them by the ear to the nearest men's restroom and show them the floor underneath a urinal. This is what your shoes stand in every day... and you want that on your carpets and floors? Gross.

  5. Thanks to all for the comments. Though I do believe it is certainly more sanitary, I'm not a fanatic about it (though Dennis's comment does make me think about becoming a fanatic!! Ewwwww!). I didn't insist that the fellow remove his shoes and I probably wouldn't even offer plastic bags because of the fear that the oaf would slip and fall and then sue me for the incident, but I'd seriously consider offering the hair net type thing that Shawn mentioned if I saw them. I do think they should bring such things for themselves as an act of consideration, but, then again, they don't do it because of the cultural differences.

  6. Orthopaedic my 4ss. You've been in Japan too long, not wanting confrontation. If that was my house it would be a case of: "take them off or don't come in, you choose".

    Total lack of respect from a guest in your house. Completely unacceptable IMHO.

  7. LOL, Chris. You're probably right about having been in Japan too long and not wanting confrontation. I don't really fear it, but I don't want to get into arguments with people. ;-)

    My husband has been struggling with the same issue, though we are both getting with the program. When our neighbors were up past midnight with their T.V. blaring on the evening of the Chinese new year, I did put on my robe and go down and ask them to turn it down. I got a gaping mouth and a lame excuse ("we're celebrating the new year"). I'm not sure that having your T.V. turned up so loud that the floor in the apartment above is vibrating from the sound waves has much to do with how the Chinese New Year is celebrated, but I told him some of us had to get up early the next day and he did turn it down. However, that neighbor, who used to say "hello" or "good afternoon" to me hasn't made eye contact or said a word to me since. Confrontation does have consequences... though sometimes you just can't let people walk all over you. ;-)

  8. You can't assume he wasn't being honest about his shoes. My father has to wear a special shoe insert because one leg is slightly longer than the other and if he takes off his shoes even for short periods of time he has terrible back pain. If he visits me in Japan we make sure he has special indoor shoes to wear so he can use the insert. Certainly he might have been telling you that because he just didn't want to take off his shoes but he might have been telling the truth too.

    1. I can't assume it, but his tone of voice and the way he said it sounded like a lie to me. That being said, if your job is going into people's homes to take pictures and they have their own standards for their homes, and you need orthopedic shoes, then it is your responsibility to bring covers to accommodate people. In this instance, I was the "customer" doing him a courtesy. I pay to rent this space. He was working for the people I pay. They do this to report to the bank that finances the loan for the property to make sure the property value is worth the mortgage. I'm doing them a favor. The least they could do is send someone who treats the renters with courtesy and respect.


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