Japanese people do not wear shoes inside their homes. This unique shoe culture has been a part of Japanese culture for many centuries, and Japanese homes, both traditional and modern, are designed in certain ways because of it.
The most noticeable design is the genkan. When you open the front door, you will immediately find a hard floor area. This area, called a genkan, is usually about one square meter. This small area is specially designated for taking off and putting on shoes. On the side up against the wall, there is a shoe closet to store all the shoes. The genkan prevents any dirt from coming inside the house.
Some people wear slippers inside their homes, and some people prefer not to. Nonetheless, it is a common rule or manner for the host to welcome guests with a pair of house slippers. Another distinct Japanese custom regarding slippers, is the use of toilet slippers. Toilets are usually separated from the bathroom (bath, shower, and sink). They have their own small room. So, some people like to have rubber toilet slippers for that particular room. If you are not familiar with the concept, make sure to change back to your normal slippers: You don’t want to leave the toilet with the rubber slippers still on.
The reason why Japanese people take off their shoes, has a lot to do with climate. Climate has a large influence on culture, and many Japanese customs are a result of the unique climate. Japan has rain all year, and is relatively humid. Therefore, shoes often had mud on them. Instead of using rugs to brush off the dirt like most cultures, Japanese people simply took off their shoes. Also, traditional Japanese houses had tatami floors, which are very difficult to clean, so that must have been another contributing factor to the shoe culture. The humid climate and tatami floors, created the unique custom of taking off shoes, and this custom created the genkan.