Significance of Shoe Lockers in Anime

I am a big advocator of not wearing outdoor shoes while indoors. This was ingrained into me as a child by my family and my elementary school. Whenever you walked inside, you take your shoes off, it’s just common sense. My reaction to one day discovering that one of my friends and many others wear their shoes indoors was much like in the video above.  I don’t think I need to point out the practical aspect of changing shoes when coming inside; instead I want to explore the significance of shoe lockers in anime.

I’m sure many of you have noticed the rows upon rows of shoe lockers near the entrances to all schools in anime. While they are mainly used to store shoes, the writers of anime seem to have taken a liking to using this area as a setting for events in many stories. The consequences usually range from broken hearts to broken school buildings. Listed here are some of the things I’ve seen shoe lockers be involved in.

Love Letters

Love letters (or in the case of Tenma from School Rumble, love scrolls) are the most popular use of shoe lockers in anime. Seeing as Japanese schools don’t have full-size lockers, shoe lockers are the next best place to give someone a letter without having to face them. These usually end up failing and if it’s not part of some comic relief, will usually mean that the letter writer will end up with a different lover.

Meeting Spot

Everyone passes through the school entrance, and everyone has to stop to change their shoes. This makes the shoe locker area the perfect place to meet up with people since they’re all gathered there anyways. Many revelations happen near the shoe lockers in anime because of this.

Finding People

For the same reasons as above, the shoe lockers make a perfect place to look for someone. It works great for stalkers because they have so many lockers to hide behind, but it’s dreaded by the stalked.


One of the interesting things about Japanese shoe lockers is that they always seem to be unlocked in anime. Anyone is free to open any locker and do what they wish to the shoes inside, including shredding them, putting sharp tacks inside, or throwing them away. These tactics are employed against characters that the viewer is supposed to feel sympathy for, like Yuuko in ef -A Tale of Melodies-.


Shoe lockers can also be used as a way to carry out an evil scheme. Kurumi from Kimi ni Todoke gets Ryuu and Sawako to meet up using a letter placed in a shoe locker and makes it look like they are going out.

Visual Appeal

Many anime are popular because of their visual appeal, and shoe lockers really help in that aspect. How many times have you seen a scene showing two rows of shoe lockers with the light from the setting sun streaming in from the entrance to the school? Apparently all schools in anime have an entrance facing West.

Bomb Threat

Creating a bomb threat is by far my favourite use of shoe lockers in anime. In the first episode of Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, Sousuke discovers that someone has broken into his shoe locker and promptly proceeds to disarm it the military way.

Shoe lockers have proven themselves to be more than just a place to put your shoes when it comes to anime. It’s interesting that something so insignificant can have such a big impact in so many series. The next time you watch an anime set in school, make sure to keep an eye out just to see how many other ways they can be used. If you spot anything interesting, feel free to share.


This post is part of the Guide to Anime project. For more guides on various topics related to anime, check out the project page.

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  1. Azumanga just rocks, haha

    the intro actually made feel a bit ashamed of my barbarian country XD
    Here in germany we use the same shoes inside and outside, but in case the shoes are more dirty we have doormats in front of the entrance. Ok we also don’t enter with totally dirty shoes and when people have expensive floor then they only let their guests enter without shoes.

    Anyway I think your post was very entertaining, I only know shoe lockers from anime and never gave much thought about them, so it was quite enjoyable to read your impressions.
    Wieselhead recently posted..Hachikuji Mayoi figma by Max Factory

  2. I guess I should be scared for knowing every show where you took the pictures of. On the other hand most of them are pretty wellknown, so I guess it’s fine :P

    Nice article. I will need to wait reading your reviews though, as I’m going to watch both Usagi as well as Steins;Gate. But since I love watching anime in “one go” I didn’T watch them already :P

  3. Haha…that video is really a good way of showing one of the disadvantages of wearing shoes indoor. I like sensei’s reaction. I don’t wear shoes indoor too so I’m not used to seeing people wearing shoes indoor.

    It’s a great list you’ve got there. I lingered on Taiga’s photo a little bit longer. It’s really gorgeous. I never thought of the visual appeal aspect when it comes to shoe lockers but those love letters thing, yeah.
    Hoshiko recently posted..Blog’s One Year Anniversary

  4. @feal87:
    I laughed so hard the first time I saw that episode, I guess you can’t take a military man and put him in a high school without consequences.

    I think in Canada, the number of people who change shoes and those that don’t is evenly split. When I enter someone’s home I always wait and see what they do before walking anywhere.

    I hope you enjoy both of those series, especially Steins;Gate, I thought that one was really good.

    It took me several years to notice the visual aspect of the shoe lockers. One day I was browsing through some wallpapers and saw one with shoelockers and it just reminded me of how many scenes in anime looked exactly like that.

    Haha, really? To each his own.

  5. I always take my shoes off when I go inside, it’s what everyone do here in Sweden. Every time someone says they don’t, I become surprised. Habits habits…

    Are there lockers in Japanese schools in the same way as it’s portrayed in anime? Talking about that, I also wonder if the school buildings are as “great” in real life as in anime. Of course it’s glorified to some degree, but there ought to be some sort of truth. Maybe?

  6. While I don’t change shoes indoors, I do take my shoes off most of the time after coming in the house. I think the idea of indoor/outdoor shoes is a great idea and should be incorporated in schools over here, but it’ll never happen. The only thing I don’t get is the fact that they’re never locked, but I guess that makes them more fun in anime.

  7. @Marow:
    From what I can tell, the lockers in Japanese schools are just like the ones in anime. The difference is that real schools are more run-down since they are usually in older buildings.

    I wouldn’t say that. At least in Canadian schools, there isn’t a place that can perform all the functions I mentioned. Heck, none of the schools I went to even had cafeterias. It also doesn’t help that every school has a few main entrances and several side entrances, so you can go through a whole year without seeing someone in the same class as you.

    Unlocked lockers certainly add a few more situations that writers can work with. I’m not sure if real ones actually do have locks, I’ve seen American shows where lockers open and close without anyone even touching the lock.

    @Ephemeral Dreamer:
    The reason why my school made us change shoes was because we live really far north, so if the ground isn’t covered in snow, it’s covered in mud. The school would have to pay dozens of janitors to clean up the mess, so it was cheaper to change shoes.

  8. I find the whole changing shoes thing silly ever since the first time I saw it, I just labeled it as a cultural thing. Reading this though made me realize how accustomed I have grown to the ever present lockers in anime with school settings and how they are often used as a plot device.
    Miette-chan recently posted..Upcoming Videogames!

  9. @Xine:
    As long as the surprise wasn’t a bomb, I wouldn’t mind one either.

    I guess it is a cultural thing, but I actually think it helps keep floors clean. They are used as plot devices more often than one would imagine though.

  10. @Yi:
    Scheming is definitely one of the uses of shoe lockers that makes them interesting. There really isn’t any other place where you can do that kind of thing.

  11. Well in “Peach Girl’, Sai uses it for many of those reasons, but also for blackmailing Momo and Toji. She’s a slick one, that Sai…

  12. Hi, Your story needs some minor corrections.First: I feel like I’m a bderun in my own house, like I’m always in the way.Second: It’s been two years since my dad passed away, and I know my mum loved him more than she could love a son or daughter of hers. We barely even talk.Third: If we do talk, its only at the times we eat. She yells out when it’s ready and that’s about it.Fourth: Most of the time I’m in my room, sitting on my bed, writing or I’m at school.Fifth: When I walk the hallways at school and pass the lockers, I see faces of people I used to know, that I know longer recognize or want to.Sixth: There are billions of different people in this world, and they may understand what I’m going through, but yet I feel alone.The fourth one on your story isn’t wrong. But that way its easier to understand and write. I know that you didn’t ask for correction. Just to read and tell what we think. But I thought I’d do this. =)