Yesterday, I read this interesting short essay in the newspaper written by the writer Fujiwara Tomomi . It was the title of his article that caught my eyes. That said, “Only the Japanese who were wearing shoes.” You could imagine easily that the Japanese take off their shoes inside the house as it’s their custom. But how come, as he said, only the Japanese kept wearing their shoes at the party held by a French man living in Tokyo. I summarized his article below.
Before reading my summary, do you know what ‘Agari kamachi’ is? The Agari kamachi is a kind of step to enter the living space from an entrance in the Japanese houses. Commonly, you’re supposed to take off your shoes before you step on that Agari kamachi. It’s easier for you and me to show you some pictures of Agari kamachi to make it clear.
It happened at the party where I was invited by the French living in Tokyo. I found the several Japanese among of many foreigners there. The Amid of merry atmosphere, I was startled to know that every one except me was not wearing his/her shoes, while I was in my boots perfectly! However, taking a good look at them, I found that other Japanese were wearing their shoes either. I whispered behind my fan, “We are supposed to take off our shoes here..” to one Japanese beside of me, and rushed to the entrance hall. There I found a bunch of shoes were lined up insidiously. Why? We are so accustomed to taking off our shoes that we never make such a rudeness? The answer is clear. Because, there was no Agarikamachi in that house. The Japansese unconsciously make their decision whether to take off ther shoes or not depend on the existence or nonexistence of the Agarikamachi. We never wonder about it at a hotel room or an office room where the floor is extending flatly from the corridor. (It mean you can keep wearing your shoes.) Also, once we found the Agarikamachi , we will take off our shoes without any doubt.
That Agarikamachi has now been disappearing from modern Japanese houses. They call this movement as ‘ barrier-free/バリアフリー’. I wonder this movement would be accelerated more and more, and finally the Agarikamachi have gone away? Could you imagine the Japanese live in their houses wearing shoes in the future? I don’t think so. I believe the Japanese would never stop taking off their shoes in their private space. The Agarikamachi is not merely a step but it’s the border between outside and inside of the house, and they believe that border has some cultural meaning in their lives. If the Agarikamachi would have gone, we might lose that something in our mind either. I want to know what the something is.”
From the article by 藤原智美 in The Yomiuri newspaper of the 4th of Nov.
I do take off my shoes in my room, and anywhere if it’s possible. I guess he had that mistake because the Japanese people tend to think that the westerner don’t take off their shoes until they go to bed. (Is it true?) How about you? When and Where do you take off your shoes?