Thursday, May 10, 2007
Shoes and flip-flops
Yesterday I was at the Mifumi Kindergaarten again for English and I thought I'd show you a little about Japanese customs there.
Of course everyone knows that the Japanese take off their shoes when entering their homes but did you know that everyone also takes off their shoes when going into the schools and kindergartens? Of course anywhere that there are tatami mat rooms like temples and shrines shoes are required to be removed and up until recently, we even took off our shoes when we entered churches.
At the entrance to the kindergarten (or schools) there is always a large area for shoes to be taken off and for those shoes to be put away in cubby holes. You can imagine the confusion there would be if a hundred children left their shoes here and there at the entrance to a building so each child has his own cubby hole. The cubby is just large enough for a pair of shoes, and during the day while the children are in the building they will wear indoor shoes, simple sneakers. The indoor shoes are all alike so the mothers decorate them with pictures so the kids can tell their shoes from everyone elses'. The shoe changing area is swept daily, in schools by the children, at the kindergarten by the teachers, so it stays clean and sand free.
In the case of Mifumi, the children are encouraged to go barefoot indoors (even in the dead of winter! Builds up stamina!) and when they play in the kindergarten yard they all wear zori, straw flip-flops. Boys have blue, girls have red and even the teachers play outdoors with the kids in flip-flops. (You cannot imagine all the excitement I caused yesterday when I asked a couple of kids to let me take pictures of their zori.! "Take my picture! Take mine!" I ended up taking pictures of barefeet and sneakers, too, but I guess you can see kids' feet anywhere so I'm not posting those!)