Artificial leg and Japanese shoe removal custom
- MemberOctober 26, 2017 at 3:04 pm
I am planning to visit Japan but have come upon a problem. I have an artificial right leg. I cannot easily remove the shoe (this would require taking off the leg first) and anyway the foot on the artificial leg is designed to be used with a shoe on and would not be stable to walk on. I have now been told by the tour operator that if I cannot remove the shoe I will be unable to enter various sites (temples and some special events) and will have to stay outside. I have suggested that I could wear put in some covering over my shoes (overshoes? large soft slippers?) but they haven’t even responded to this. They simply talk about local customs. I may need to cancel the trip which would be a great disappointment. Surely the locals will be more sympathetic of I make the effort to cover my shoes? Anyone with experience with this?
- ModeratorOctober 26, 2017 at 4:45 pm
Your email really made me sad. That the lack of understanding from your tour operator could be such a discouragement. Sure, it is custom to remove your shoes in Japan, but people are very understanding. There are people in wheelchairs, orthopedic braces and with artificial legs here too!
A few things:
- I use an electric wheelchair. I have been to a few places where people are required to change shoes. For me, they just wiped my tires.
- I have seen plastic shoe covers used
- One place I saw offers a push wheelchair for indoor use – so, you could use that if push came to shove
So, I don’t think you have anything to worry about in terms of being restricted from any public tourist attractions.
I am not sure what the special events are, but if it was say a tea ceremony on a tatami mat – I would be surprised if the place denied you entry based on your situation if you explain it (as it would be discrimination).
I would suggest that if you are asked to remove your shoes:
- Show your leg so they understand
- Use a plastic shoe cover
I would also suggest changing your tour operator! To me it seems that they have just read stuff in books and have little experience! If you don’t need to use them, try: https://www.insidejapantours.com/self-guided-japan-holidays/i-wagrc/wheelchair-accessible-golden-route/. They could build a custom tour and contact places in advance.
Please, don’t be discouraged!
- MemberOctober 26, 2017 at 5:13 pm
My daughter uses a wheelchair, but she has never been denied entrance to a tourist site or event because of her wheelchair. Most places make accomodations for visitors with disabilities, especially with the approach of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. If you have doubts, though, perhaps you could change tour operators, as suggested above.
- MemberOctober 26, 2017 at 6:47 pm
Hello, my name is Ruth and I work for InsideJapan Tours – the tour operator that Accessible Japan gave a kind plug to! We’d certainly be able to arrange Japan travel for anybody with an artificial leg. If you travelled on one of our Small Group Tours, the tour leader would be able to explain to any entrance officials at temples or special events that you cannot remove your shoe. Or if you were travelling independently on a tailormade trip, we’d give you a page explaining in Japanese that you have an artificial leg – just to ease any potential communication issues. I’ve read that there are 80,000 people living in Japan using prosthetic limbs, so local customs can certainly be navigated!
- MemberOctober 27, 2017 at 12:21 am
This also made me really sad & angry!
All of the above suggestions are completely spot on. My family has just returned from 6 months of living and travel all around Japan. My son wears leg braces and has to wear shoes for stability–they are also a real pain to remove. For many places we were able to just explain that he needed to keep his shoes on–raising his pant leg to show the braces often helped.
When we visited people’s houses we sometimes would bring an extra pair of shoes (and called them his “inside” shoes). At his school they understood, and he just wore a single pair of shoes everywhere. At some tourist locations (really old shrines/temples) they had a wheelchair he could borrow. At one cat cafe one worker let us in (with my very basic explanation) and then another worker came and wiped my son’s shoes off as he was holding a cat. At a bunny/otter cafe they were adamant about changing into their crocs–and the floors were really gross. The crocs fit over his braces and he was able to shuffle around. (I wouldn’t really recommend a bunny/otter cafe to anyone unless you are really into these creatures).
Because my son is still small, there were some spaces where I or my husband would carry him. Usually we weren’t told to do this, but just wanted to avoid other people being uncomfortable. I imagine a shoe cover would be a fine compromise.
Japan is an amazing place to visit–this sounds more like an issue with the tour operator than what you would experience with actual people.
- MemberOctober 27, 2017 at 7:45 am
Thank you all for your very helpful repliers. I have sent the information to the operator I am booked with and will inform you when they respond!
- MemberNovember 1, 2017 at 8:32 am
I thought I should let everyone know that I have now taken the suggestion I received here and rebooked with InsideJapan. This caused me bit of inconvenience (and expense) as I had to change my flight bookings to fit with the new tour. However, I am confident it will be worth it – the help I got from InsideJapan has been great. While I may have been able to convince my original operator to be more helpful, I would have felt they regarded me as something of a pest and this would not be a good start to a tour! I am now very much more relaxed.
- MemberNovember 15, 2017 at 10:49 pm
Hi everyone, I’m trying to find out some information for my customers too at the moment. They can’t remove their shoes, kneel or sit down and will be visiting shrines and temples on part of a cruise tour they have booked through me at Travel Counsellors with a cruise line. The cruise line have simply said that they have to adhere to the customs which doesn’t help us at all. It’s very reassuring to read your comments on here. I would like to put together shrine by shrine, temple by temple what will happen for my customers i.e. a wheelchair will be available, bags to put over their shoes are ok etc etc. I’m checking the internet sites too but it’s not obvious for all places. Can anyone on this forum help with such detail please? Thank you.
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