The building of my new apartment has a spa for the residents. As a common practice in Japan, we must take off our shoes to get in the spa’s locker room. I hate taking off my shoes at a public place, but I go there every day to take a bath and a shower because the service charge that I pay every month includes the spa fee.
Of course, I can’t walk barefoot around the floor that other people step on with their socks or bare feet since I have germ-phobia, so I have my own solution. I bring slippers and wear them when I take off my shoes to enter the locker room. This way, my feet never touch the public floor.
One day, a middle-aged woman approached me and told me to take off my slippers and stay barefoot inside the locker room. Listening to her reason for a weird demand, I realized that she thought I had used the slippers as my shoes and therefore I had entered with my shoes on. I explained to her that I did take off my shoes and wore the slippers instead of being barefoot, which was as clean as barefooted. Actually, wearing slippers is cleaner than barefooted, for that matter. But she still insisted that I should be barefoot. While I had no idea why she wanted me to take off my slippers so badly and I kept telling her how clean my slippers were, she finally made her hidden point clear. She said, “Because nobody is wearing slippers here!” Her point wasn’t about hygiene. She didn’t like to see someone different.
Like a typical Japanese, she wants everyone to live in the same way and feels secure by that. She’s the exact opposite to me. I feel secure when I’m different. I’m confident other residents will follow and apply my way in time, and after a few years, everyone including that woman will wear slippers in the locker room. I walked there with my slippers on as usual, a little proudly today…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks, 43 available distributors in total