Thursday, August 10, 2006

leave your shoes at the door

Entering a House in Japan

The entrance area is called a "genkan."

See the picture on the left? I wish this was our genkan, but it's not. This is a picture of a very neat genkan that I found on the web. Notice how the shoes are properly pointed to the door. I'm sure those are the guests' shoes.

Next, we have another picture of a genkan that I found on the net (don't have a digital camera so can't show you ours). This is more of what ours usually looks like. If you know us very well, you're not surprised.

Welcome to our Japanese home!

When you walk in the door you see the "genkan." It is a square area set level to the outside, maybe 2 feet square. This is where you take off your shoes. On the right is a tall, narrow closet set into the wall. When you open the door, you see row after row of shelves running from the floor almost to the ceiling. The bottom shelves show spots of bright color from Bonnie's shoes: pink flip-flops, sparkly Hello Kitty high heels, green sandals. The top rows are filled with the more subdued tones of mama's brown mules, black flats, white slip-ons. I think the genkan is a great addition to a house. I wish we had a place like this in our house back in America to put our dirty shoes when we walk inside. I have always taught Bonnie to take off her shoes when she walks into the house because "only barbarians wear shoes in the house" so we always had a mishmash of shoes piled up by our back door. I like the organization of the genkan. And another nice thing about it: people in Japan never come past the genkan when they come into your house unless they are specifically invited. So when Bonnie's friends come to drop her off, I can stand at the door and chat with them without feeling like I have to invite them in (which is avery rare thing to do in Japan anyway) and without figuring out how to get them to leave (they tend to stay for a VERY long time, very late at night when I need to eat and get to bed).

When a guest comes into the house, you're supposed to turn their shoes around so they are facing the door, thereby making it easier for them to exit your place. I never seem to remember to do this! So our guests are always backing into their shoes. I wonder what they think of us.

There's another smaller "shoes box" next to the tall one. This one is full of nothing but slippers -- for guests to put on when they come in, I guess. Bonnie has put all of her bedroom slippers in there and occasionally likes to take out the Japanese slippers and wear them around the house. I am a barefoot gal myself and prefer not to wear slippers, especialy since I don't know where they've been.

This slipper thing extends to work as well. After we climb to the third floor, we put our shoes inside the box and take out some slippers. I'm pretty squeemish about wearing slippers that have been worn by anyone, especially kids, so I bought my own pair. I thought I'd be cool and get a pair of slippers that have a million tiny rubber bumps on the insole -- reflexology slippers. But, man, do they hurt! When I tell my adult students that, they sagely nod their heads. "Ah, so desu ka," they say, "That means there is something wrong with your body." Oh really, I thought it was the millions of tiny bumps eating into my tender feet whenever I walk. "No," they insist, "if you were healthy, you wouldn't feel it." I wonder if this is really true, or another example of unquestioned acceptance of authority. If the foot reflexologist says you won't feel it, then the problem must be with my body, not the shoes. Oh well, I still feel like I'm healthier for wearing them. If they hurt, they must be good for me!

Things have been a bit brighter for us since one of our friends gave us a VCR and lent us a bunch of tapes she had. I am getting to appreciate Full House like I never did before. And now that we have a VCR, we can rent videos from the video store and all our friends at home (that means YOU) can tape some TV and send it to us! Please!

Here's our top requests:

  • Reality TV -- Survivor, the Apprentice, (someone is taping the Amazing Race for us already), America's Top Model (that is Bonnie's favorite, unfortunately) and Bonnie's favorite: Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
  • Reruns: Brady Bunch, Little House, Full House, any family oriented show you can think of
  • America's Funniest Home Videos - for Bonnie
  • Law and Order for me ( my fave is SVU)

If you taped any of these and/or your faves (I already feel out of touch with American TV programming) we would be eternally grateful and we would also send you a cool souvenir from Japan!