What? No Louboutins?

I can totally get on board with the whole no-shoes-in-the-house rule. It really makes a lot of sense. The Japanese are fairly lax about it in public - most stores and restaurants don't make you take your shoes off. Except when it comes to temples and other historic structures. This creates a sort of odd industry for cheap plastic-y oversized slippers that inevitably make you feel dirtier for deigning to put them on.

It would be tempting to see it as poetic justice - a thumb in the eye of visiting tourists who meekly shuffle through buildings that are (in many cases) double the age of their governments while wearing PVC footwear. However, the Japanese seem to accept these affronts to fine footgear just as meekly. I would consider Mr. Takahashi to be a classy and refined guy, but I've seen him trudge about in them as naturally as if they were Italian leather.

Mrs. Ishii, of course, wore slippers constantly in the house. Hers had a distinctive shuffle-clomp that could be heard throughout the house as she went from room to room. (It took me over a week and a half to realize that her clomp to the bathroom were the reason I kept waking up at 5 am every morning)

From a practical standpoint, the slippers serve as a signal that someone is or isn't in a room. For example, a bathroom is known to be occupied when there are slippers outside the door (you exchange your slippers for the bathroom-only slippers). In ryokans with sliding unlocked doors, slippers outside the room lets the owners know whether it's safe to go in or not.

All the more reason to wear shoes that go on and off easily. And socks.