As far as barefoot running is concerned, it is a brand new thing there. The Barefoot Runners Society has had a Japanese chapter at least since late 2010, when their Facebook page was established. In the same year, the popular running magazine Competitor reported that a barefoot running club was established in Tokyo that same year.
The club's founder, Tsuyoshi Yoshino told Competitor:
“We get new people whenever we’re covered on morning news shows,” Yoshino says. “But there we’re treated as an oddity. What I find strange is that Japan has a culture where we’re always taking off our shoes–people know that it feels good to go barefoot. But they draw the line when it comes to running.”
Yoshino started barefoot running while studying chemistry at a college in the USA.
Our research found that being barefoot in a Japanese home often depended on the owner's preference, various visitors to the country reported. Travel guides stated that it is still customary to remove shoes when entering a house but that most people put on house slippers. One person reported that one also removed slippers when entering the Tatami room in a Japanese home, the room where people have tea and important social interaction. Tatami rooms were originally found in the homes of Japanese nobles.
|A Japanese woman meditates with Mt. Fuji to her back. The photo was taken in Yamanashi, Japan by Motoyuki Kobayahsi, who is well-known for photographing Yoga poses among other subjects. Photo source is Fotobank.|
Nobility and the intricate nature of Japan's feudal social structure centuries ago may be contributing factors to why Japanese people tend to prefer being shod, but this is just a guess, as we did not do an anthropological deep dive for information.
Certainly, ancient martial arts are a signature of Japanese culture that remain as such in the modern era, and being barefoot to practice these ancient disciplines goes without saying.
We'd love to have comments from our Japanese readers, and we are grateful they have joined Almost Barefoot's readership.