Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Crossing Denominational Lines

I visited the city of Hirosaki with my hosts, John and Laurie and their daughter, Mary yesterday. It is a much larger city than Ajigasawa.

We visited three different churches, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant and high Anglican. We had to remove our shoes in all three churches; only the Protestant church provided slippers, however.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Toilet Slippers

In many Japanese homes, you are expected to change into a special pair of slippers when going to the bathroom. You have to rember to take them off and put your ordinary slippers on when you come out (or you will end up feeling very silly!). The idea is to keep damp from the bathroom from spreading in the house (quite sensible).

My host family do not have toliet slippers, but the church building in which I am sleeping does.

Last week, I decided to buy some toliet slippers to take home with me. When I get home, I am going to put them in my bathroom and freak out my parents.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Amusing Story

Talking about removing shoes before going into church, John Eliott, my host told me an amusing story.

There was a guy who was part of a minor criminal gang in Japan. The boss of this gang needed a new pair of shoes and he ordered him to go and steal him some shoes.

The man decided that the easiest way to steal shoes would be to take them from the entrance of some sort of public building. He happened to pick a Christian church, but before he could steal a pair of shoes, a lady at the church welcomed him and beckoned him in. He could do little but go and attend the service. The man became a Christian as a result.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Wearing Slippers in Church is wonderful!

I atteneded my first Japanese church service yesterday. You have to remove your shoes before entering the church. There are slippers on a shelf, but I wore my own. It was really comfortable wearing slipers during the service. Though, I dressed as smartly as I would normally.

I think it is a really good idea. In my experinece, most churches in the UK have really dirty carpets or floors.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tatami

In Japanese homes, most rooms have traditional style straw mat flooring, called tatami.

While wearing slippers is the norm in Japanese homes, they are never worn on the tatami. Slippers are for the hall and kitchen; socks or barefeet are for the tatami. I am impressed by the discipline with which the Japanese remove their slippers before stepping onto the tatami, even if only momentarily.

Genkan

The custom of removing shoes is so essential to Japanese life that it is built into the architecture of houses, and many other kinds of buildings.

At the entrance way of an house is the genkan, an area of floorspace on a lower level to the rest of the house. This is considered to be outside, not inside. Hence you enter the genkan with your shoes on then remove them as you enter the house. You are not supposed to touch the genkan floor with your socks or barefeet, you raise your foot onto the hallway one your shoe is off. However, my hosts, the Eliotts break that rule, as their house is attached to the church building and separated only by the genkan. It would be pretty inconvenient to put shoes on and take them off again ever time they needed to go into the church (which is where I sleep).

In a western house you could use a porch as a genkan, however, the Japanese often have western style porches in addition to their genkans, so they do not remove their shoes in their porches if they have them.

Dusty!

During my ongoing mission trip to Japan, I spent four days in a log cabin whcih had been built in the Forties. Although we all took our shoes at the door, the insulation was poor and the place was full of dust.

All that dust was not fun. My slippers were new, but they soon looked like I had been wearing them for years. Of course this dust is the same stuff your shoes pick up. How much worse would the house been had we kept our shoes on?

To reduce dust in your house, you should seriously consider instituting a shoes-off policy.

Emergency Landings

There seems to be conflicting information as to whether all shoes need to removed in an aircraft emergency landing or just high-heeled shoes.

On the safety cards behind the seats, you only see pictures of people removing high-heeled shoes (to protect the chute). However, I have heard accounts that everybody has to take their shoes off. On the flight to Japan last week, there was an animated film presenting the saftey instructions. People who had been flat shoes had taken them off in that.

I suppose in an emergency, the cabin crew have nopt got time to check everybody's shoes and find it easier just to tell everybody to take their shoes off.

Now removing shoes at home might not be a life or death issue like in an aircraft emergency, but high heels and also flat shoes can leave scratches and marks on wood and laminate flooring.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Removing Shoes at Airport Security

At Birmingham airport they make everybody take their shoes off at the security checkpoint. It was interesting to watch how people were taking this. I was surprised how graceful people were about it. I did notice people were mostly quick to put their shoes on again. I thought it was rather comfortable. The carpet was delightfully soft.

Going through Birmingham airport security was rather like being arrested; you have to empty your pockets and remove your belt and shoes. The only difference is that they do not make you take your necktie off.

I was surpised to find I had to go through another security check at Zurich. They did not ask people to take their shoes off there, but quite a few people had to go back shoeless when the metal detector bleeped. As my boots have zips and buckles, I took them off anyway. The lady next to me did the same. I think the Birmingham policy was more sensible. The check was much quicker with people only going through once. Besides, can they detect explosives with a metal detector? I would have thought x-raying shoes for explosives would be more important than only checking them for razor blades.

My hope is that with people having to take off their shoes in situations like this, they will get more used to the idea that you cannot keep your shoes on all the time and that stocking feet are required in some circumstances.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I am alive and well in Japan

I am, alive and well in Japan. As might be expected I am in my socks on a tatami floor.

I will post more when I get the opportunity.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Goodbye

I am going to Japan for a two-month mission trip next Tuesday. You may not get another post from me for a while.

As Japan is probably the most zealously shoes-off country in the world, I may come back with some inspiration.