Japanese Catholic customs



Do Japanese Catholics remove their shoes to celebrate Mass?



My guess is that they would if Mass is being celebrated inside a building:



No. They don’t take their shoes off at work, the post office, or the 7-11 either. Only in homes, temples, and some traditional restaurants. Having said that, there’s the rare church designed like a temple. I.e., hardwood floor, no pews. You would take your shoes off then. I saw one in the US though I can’t remember where now.


Japanese custom might vary depending on the country they are in.

I know that in my local American Korean parish Korean Catholics wear their shoes in the sanctuary. However, in Korea Korean Catholics do not wear their shoes in the sanctuary. :slight_smile:


We had the privilege of visiting Our Lady of Akita in Japan last May. You will be surprised that they do remove shoes going in the church.

The chapel of our Lady is set on top of a hill in a remote province. We took a 4 hour bullet train ride, then a 20 minute bus ride, then a 15 minute hike up a hill. If it was not for the cross on the roof, it will just look like another temple.

Inside, they have a recieving area. on the side, they have shelves with slippers. you will need to take off your shoes, leave them by the door and wear the slippers or walk in just your socks. Our priest said mass there in the slippers…

looking forward from the main entrance, there are three chambers: the main chamber where the altar, tabernacle and sacristry are, on the right is a small chamber that leads to the bathrooms, and on the left is a small chamber where the statue of Our Lady is. all of them are connected, only separated by walls and sliding paperdoors.
i think they open all sliding doors when there is a large crowd for mass, otherwise, these are closed and mass is said in the main chamber only.

this chapel is right beside a monastary of nuns, i forgot what order though.


I have attended Mass in Japan and never removed my shoes.


I’ve been to mass in Japan and I don’t remember people removing their shoes. I think this custom is primarily for people’s homes.


That depends entirely on the type of building.

If the Church has a Japanese style entrance where the vestibule (GENKAN) is a step lower than the actual floor (so you have to step up to enter the Church) and if there is a shelf for shoes, then those are clues that you must remove your shoes and wear the slippers provided.

The few Catholic Churches I have attended in Tokyo did not require removing shoes, but I know several Anglican Churches that are designed that way, and I hated to wear the vinyl slippers because they were too small for my feet.

Of course, the tradition of not wearing shoes indoors is more for practical reasons and comfort than for reverence. Since Japanese live close to the floor and even sleep on the floor, they don’t want to track all that dirt etc that their shoes picked up from the street. For the same reason you will rarely see a Japanese outside barefoot.

I personally can’t fully relax indoors unless I take off my shoes now. I love soft tatami mat floors! And yes, I sleep on the floor. Haven’t fallen out of bed for years…


I must admit I don’t know the answer.

All of the Missionaries of Charities I know remove their shoes for house Masses at least. I thought this was very interesting when I discovered it.


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