Whoever Said Japanese Students’ Indoor Shoes Had to Be Boring?

uwabaki shoe art

Uwabaki indoor shoes. Photo courtesy Flickr user sanbu (CC BY-NC 2.0)

In Japan, the new school year starts in April. As the school year winds down in March, many families will be starting to think about uniforms and school supplies for the month ahead.

For many Japanese preschoolers uwabaki (indoor shoes) are an ubiquitous part of school life. Students, teachers, and visitors alike are all required to remove their street shoes before entering the school.

With their elastic straps, uwabaki are easy to put on for young children, and the rubberized toes provide traction on slippery surfaces in the school.

In recent years, attitudes in Japan towards school uniforms have softened. While uwabaki may be mandatory, in some parts of Japan it is now okay to deko (decorate) uwabaki.

Some parents decorate the uwabaki themselves for their kids, while stores now sell uwabaki that feature popular cartoon and manga characters.

Mom has stayed up late to decorate your uwabaki. Sweet dreams!

A friend of mine burned the midnight oil decorating her kid's uwabaki. When I asked her why she was staying up so late, she said, “I can't wait to see the look on my kid's face when he wakes up and sees his uwabaki.”

Wow, it's amazing, they're even decorating uwabaki for elementary students now.

Yokai Watch, a pop culture phenomenon in Japan, is of course a frequent theme with uwabaki deko:

My son asked me to decorate his uwabaki for school, so I thought I would draw Whisper.

My niece asked me to decorate her uwabaki for kindergarten. 乁( ˙ ω˙乁)

It's pretty obvious that there must be some uwabaki deko kits for sale:

I decorated my niece's uwabaki.

The parents get as much enjoyment out of uwabaki deko as the kids:

I decorated my daughter's indoor shoes for school. It's elementary school now so I had to keep it simple. But I wanted to do more!


  • Alan Walker

    Charming and, I suppose, a delight for at least some parents (and others, without artistic talent, or time? and the result for their children?) but, unfortunately, this trend is also divisive; the trend would not be opposed to those who’d ‘divide and conquer’.

  • Shiny Elena

    I agree, that’s so lovely and charming. I know that Japanese parents like making things like this one. Just remember their lunch boxes – bento. An average Japanese mother prepares food and tries to make it look good.

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