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If the shoe fits …

Most people are aware it’s de rigueur to remove one’s shoes before entering a home in Japan. But the possibility of a cultural faux pas doesn’t end at the doorway.

Along with avoiding socks with holes in them, foreigners should note the area just inside the entrance, dubbed a genkan. Always a step lower than the main part of the residence, it is used to take off your shoes, put on the slippers (known as surippa) provided by your host and turn your shoes facing outside.

You’re free to walk around … until Mother Nature calls. Remove the slippers before entering the bathroom and replace with those provided exclusively for such occasions.  Upon exiting, don’t forget to change back into the original pair, as walking around in bathroom slippers is a no-no.

No more changes – except if entering a tatami-floored room (one with traditional tightly-woven rush grass mats). Off come the slippers – keep the socks on.

Other factoids about Japanese housing: Traditionally, renters have had to give “key” money to landlords, along with a security deposit. Key money, or reikin, usually equals one to two months of rent and is considered a gift to the landlord and is not refundable.

Adults past their late 20s opting to live with their parents are called parasaito shinguru, or parasite singles. And building numbers often don’t follow a linear path (i.e., No. 200 is next to No. 202). Instead, the address is assigned according to the year of construction, making it difficult to find your way without a map.

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