Unusual and interesting toilets from all around the world.

Bathroom Slippers in Japan

Which Slippers Do You Wear in Which Places?

As a visitor to Japan, you probably won't be in any private homes. But you will be staying overnight, and so you need to know how to behave in your lodging. This includes wearing the proper footwear in each area, including the bathrooms. The short version is that you don't wear outdoor shoes indoors, and there are special slippers for the toilet area. In more detail:

Let's see some examples — including, of course, the toilets and baths.

Barefoot on the Tatami

Let's cover the most sensitive part first — you always walk barefoot on tatami.

Tatami are traditional flooring mats, roughly 0.9×1.8 meters in size. The most traditional have a rice straw core, but modern ones often use compressed wood chip boards or polystyrene foam sheets.

The cover uses hemp for the warp, running the long dimension, and soft rush for the weft running across. It's all plant material, meant to be walked on without any footwear.

Hallways with wood or carpeted floors call for slippers, tatami means barefoot.

At a Traditional Ryokan

Mount Haguro

Mount Haguro is a pilgrimage destination in northern Honshū, Japan's largest island. I stayed at Tamokan, a ryokan or traditional inn. It's in Haguromachi Touge, the pilgrimage town at the mountain's base. There it is, on the right behind some trees, a short distance ahead from the bus stop.

Tamokan ryokan at the base of Mount Haguro.
Tamokan ryokan at the base of Mount Haguro.

You step from the covered porch through the main door into a stone-floored entry area. There's a rack of slippers, and you step out of your outdoor shoes and into the slippers as you go up two steps onto the wooden floored hallway.

Here's the view down the upstairs hallway. My room is immediately to the left of this viewpoint. A large stainless steel pair of sinks was just outside my door, making it very convenient to get a drink of water in the night.

Tamokan ryokan at the base of Mount Haguro.

And, my very nice room:

My room in the ryokan.

A tatami floor, so the slippers stay on the wooden floor in the hallway.

Slippers stay in the hallway.

The rooms had shōji, walls and sliding doors made with paper panels. And Wi-Fi, so I could research what I would see in the area.

My room in the ryokan, tatami mats and shōji walls and doors.

Breakfast and dinner were included. Step out of the room into the hallway slippers, go downstairs and to the dining room door, and step out of the slippers onto the tatami floor.

Dining room in the ryokan, also with tatami mats and shōji walls and doors.

On another evening, you can see that I was wearing the provided yukata or lightweight kimono. Well, of course, as I had neglected to bring my own kimono. My pajama pants and T-shirt would have been acceptable, but when in Rome...

Dining room in the ryokan, also with tatami mats and shōji walls and doors.

After dinner I would return to my room to find that the staff had moved the table to the side and laid out my futon for sleeping.

Futon ready for sleeping.

And now the main reason you're looking at this site, the toilet. There was one in a small room at each end of the hallway. It had a vinyl sheet floor, and there are the special toilet slippers. You leave your normal slippers on the wooden floor of the hallway as you step out of them and into the toilet slippers.

Toilet slippers.
Toilet slippers.
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Of course the toilet had a heated seat and multi-function cleaning water attachments. See the collection of pages depicting Japanese toilets for details.

The toilet room had just a toilet. There's a small sink built into the top of the tank with a spout that pours water while the tank is filling. To more thoroughly wash your hands, go to the large sink by my room. But given the built-in water washing functions of the toilet seat, your hands shouldn't have gotten very dirty.

As for the bathroom, it's precisely that, a bath room. There's a tile-floored entryway with a rack of baskets. You remove your slippers, and all your clothes, and step into the bath room. There are three showers. Each has the standard Japanese system — one knob to adjust the temperature mix, another to adjust the flow to either the low faucet or the hose and shower head.

Bath room in a ryokan, three shower points with mirrors.

Why are the mirrors so low? Because it's expected that you will use one of the plastic stools to sit there during part of your shower.

Bath room in a ryokan, stools and bowls.
2,446-step stone path up Mount Haguro

Once you're fully clean, you can roll back the cover and get into the already filled tub. It's quite warm and deep, up to your chin. It makes for a nice soak after a day in the cool light rain trekking up to the shrine complex at the peak of Mount Haguro.

Bath room in a ryokan, hot water tub.

At a Modern Hotel

Let's move to a less traditional, but still distinctly Japanese, inn — the Seoul Garden hotel near the train station in Hakodate, on the large northern island of Hokkaido.

You enter the lobby on a tile floor. As you head toward the elevator, there is a step up onto a carpeted area with a cabinet for shoes. Take off your shoes, step onto the carpet, and open the compartment with your room number. Take out the slippers and store your shoes there. Put on the slippers, and take the elevator up to your floor.

Shoe storage cabinet at a hotel in Hakodate.

The hallways are carpeted, but the rooms have tatami floors.

Tatami floor in a hotel in Hakodate.
Tatami floor in a hotel in Hakodate.

The toilets and baths were shared in this hotel. There are toilet slippers you change into when stepping from the carpeted hallway onto the vinyl floored area with sinks and toilets.

Shared sinks and toilets area in a hotel in Hakodate.
Shared sinks and toilets area in a hotel in Hakodate.

Women's toilets are to the right, men's are straight ahead past the sinks. For the men's:

Urinals in a hotel in Hakodate.
Urinals in a hotel in Hakodate.

Yes, these urinals are featured on the Loos With Views page.

Toilet in a hotel in Hakodate.

There are separate men's and women's bath rooms down the hall.

Bath room in a hotel in Hakodate.
Bath room in a hotel in Hakodate.

The bath is like the one at the ryokan at Mount Haguro, with a much smaller tub.

Bath room in a hotel in Hakodate.

Things Change (Somewhat)

Younger generations are deciding which traditions to keep, and which to modify or discard. At the Otaru Tap House and Hostel in Otaru, on the north coast of Hokkaido, it still makes no sense for people to wear their outdoor shoes inside, tracking rainwater and mud all over the floors. You remove your shoes and put them in the rack.

Shoe rack at a hostel in Otaru.

However, while slippers are provided, for the most part everyone goes barefoot or in socks everywhere indoors, including in the small toilet rooms.

They do provide a sign for foreign visitors, on the edge of the step up from the entry door onto the wooden floor.

Explanatory sign at a hostel in Otaru.
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Practical Matters

My kaiju-sized feet simply don't fit into Japanese hotel slippers.

At the ryokan I did everything with somewhat of a tip-toe shuffle in the appropriate slippers. However, the ryokan did have a range of sizes, none of them really large enough for me but their very largest ones were were not too bad.

Here's my footwear next to one of the single available size at the hotel in Hakodate. At the hotel I would wear the uniformly much-too-small slippers when moving between my room and the lobby, but then go barefoot up and down the hall and to the sinks and toilets. I noticed some of the other guests doing the same.

My sandal next to a hotel slipper.