The Great Shoe Debate

Like any good New Yorker (where I trained in the art of workplace etiquette), now that I’m working and commuting, I try to wear my flip flops or sneakers to work and then change into proper shoes when I get to school.    For years now, I have noted that women in Japan do not change their shoes, but they wear these gorgeous heels and boots right on the trains and buses, and for however long they are walking between public transport stops.

This week, I found out I am mistaken, sort of.  My friend Masami, who owns and runs Fukuzushi – the very best sushi shop in Roppongi (4th generation owner…), casually mentioned that Japanese women are always carrying shoes.

“Where?” I protested.  “I see them in their gorgeous shoes all over the streets!”

“Ah yes,” Masami nodded, “but they carry slippers for the office.”

It turns out that Japanese people have the exact opposite attitude about footwear than Americans.  The Japanese people wear their fancy footwear out in the world – TO the office – and then once safely inside the confines of the office, they wear only slippers.  So they do not wear these beautiful, yet pinching, shoes for a twelve-hour plus day.

This still gives me pause.  If shoes pinch, then they pinch for the thirty minute commute, or they pinch for the five minutes in the office ’til you realize it and remove them to walk in stocking feet, which I’ve done more than once over my years of working.  Frankly, I’d rather be comfortable for the part of the day where I KNOW I’m walking than in the office, where I can usually take my shoes off under my desk and no one will notice.  Of course, that applies to office workers, not for teachers.  Teachers have to have something proper in which to teach, but it does not, apparently, have to be the nice shoes in which I’ve just commuted.

I’m not sure which was is better – for the psyche or the foot, but they sure are completely polar ideas.  Isn’t it great that after about eight years of my association with Japan, I’m still learning new things?