Genkan of a residence in Japan, viewed from outside looking in.
Genkan, viewed from inside looking out.
Traditional Genkan photographed in the early 20th century
Genkan(玄関?) are traditional Japaneseentryway areas for a house, apartment, or building—something of a combination of a porch and a doormat. The primary function of genkan is for the removal of shoes before entering the main part of the house or building. Genkan are often recessed into the floor, to contain any dirt that is tracked in from the outside (as in a mud room). The tiled or concrete genkan floor is called tataki (三和土).
Upon entry, shoes are usually turned to face the door so they can be slipped on easily when leaving or placed into a getabako. After removing shoes, one must avoid stepping in the genkan in socks or with bare feet, to avoid bringing dirt into the house. Once inside, generally one will change into slippers, or shoes intended for indoor wear (Uwabaki).
Genkan are also occasionally found in other buildings in Japan, especially in old-fashioned businesses. In schools and sentō (public baths), genkan are equipped with shoe lockers or cubby holes.
The custom of removing one's shoes before entering the house is believed to go back over one thousand years to the pre-historical era of elevated-floor structures. It has continued to the present, even after the westernization of the Japanese home, which began in the Meiji period (1868–1912).