It’s not uncommon in Australia for us to wear the same shoes inside and outside the house. If our shoes are dirty, we take them off outside the front door, but otherwise may wear them until we reach our rooms to put them away.
In Japan, shoes are not worn inside. You are more than likely going to be staying in a hotel or ryokan, where slippers are provided for guests in place of your shoes.
What generally happens is the following;
– You enter the hotel / home, and find yourself in a mudroom or small entrance foyer. It is here where you will remove your shoes before taking the next step inside. The floor level is often higher than the foyer; the Japanese don’t want that floor to be stained by dirt that may be attached to your shoes.
– Once you have removed your shoes, face them outward towards the door. You then put on uwabaki (slippers) that have been provided for you. You wear these inside only (not even in the foyer)! Just wearing socks is also acceptable in casual situations.
– When you leave the hotel / home, you do the exact same steps in reverse. You take off your slippers (leaving them on the high floor level) and step down into your own shoes.
There are separate slippers provided for use in the bathroom, for hygiene purposes. In most cases, there is a small wooden platform to stand on to remove and put on these separate slippers. If your hotel flooring is tatami (woven straw mat), then you must only wear socks or have bare feet on these floors. Slippers are not permitted.
There you have it – shoe etiquette in Japan!