10 traditional Japanese shoes

Have you ever wondered what shoes Japanese people wear? Have you heard of geta, zori, uwabaki, surippa, setta, okobo, waraji and others? In this article, we will get to know 10 sandals, shoes, flip flops and other traditional shoes from Japan.

The traditional japanese shoes are important in the history of Japan and the world. Many of the flip flops we wear today were of Japanese origin, so much so that in Maranhão the Hawaiians are called Japonesa. Ready for this adventure?

Zori - The Japanese Havaianas

At zouri [草履] are flat Japanese sandals with strips that can be made of rice straw, leather, lacquered wood, cloth, rubber or synthetic material. At zori they are basically Japanese slippers with Y handles similar to Hawaiian ones.

Traditional zori are usually worn with the gi together with a sock called tabi. They are open to avoid sweating on the feet due to the humid climate of Japan. The vast majority are made of rice straw, but some are made of wood.

These slippers are believed to have been created under the influence of China and Egypt and their origins date back to the Heian Period (794-1192). Havaianas were blatantly inspired by zori, we recommend reading our articles on zori and its similarity to Hawaiian.

10 traditional Japanese shoes

Geta - Traditional wooden shoes

Geta [下駄] is a traditional Japanese sandal, with a wooden base, similar to a clog, it serves to prevent the foot from coming into contact with the ground. They are used with traditional Japanese clothing, such as kimono or yukata, or during the summer.

The geta they are the oldest shoes in Japan, widely used in swamps and rice fields to avoid dirtying clothes and feet, the teeth are suitable for mountainous and rigid terrain. Geta makes a noise when you walk what the Japanese call karankoron.

Currently the geta is mainly used by geisha, some modern shoes try to imitate the geta, but the traditional one is made of wood with one or two teeth. If you want to know more, we recommend reading our article on geta, the Japanese wooden footwear.

10 traditional Japanese shoes

Surippa - Japanese slip slippers

Surippa [スリッパ] comes from English slip and literally means to slip on. It gets its name because of how easy it is to put on by just slipping your feet into it. It looks a lot like shoes, but they are open at the bottom and sometimes in the front.

They also do not have fasteners or knots to tighten, with different sizes and models for internal and external use. Due to their ease of putting on, they are widely placed inside houses in the genkan to be used by visitors.

At surippa were originally created in the Meiji era to be worn over shoes to facilitate the entry of foreigners who are not used to taking off their shoes to enter homes. Soon this idea became a widely used footwear.

10 traditional Japanese shoes

Uwabaki - Traditional indoor slippers

Uwabaki [上履き] are hallway or indoor slippers widely used in public places such as schools, gymnasiums, offices, theater and other public offices. They are also called upper shoes or Uwagutsu [上靴].

Unlike the surippa it has some handles for attaching to the feet, it is opened only on top resembling a little moccasin. They are generally seen more in schools, especially in primary school where students even write their names on it.

They are usually made of rubber and cover the toes and heels. These shoes are not always tied, some are just fitting, since schools encourage students to be barefoot in some situations.

10 traditional Japanese shoes

Setta - Sandal with leather sole

Setta [雪駄] are Japanese sandals with leather soles in order to confer a waterproof function, they have an iron tail at the bottom, they are durable, against moisture and resistant to damage. The upper part is woven with bamboo, leather or synthetic material.

Some claim to be a type of geta, but it looks more like zori popular with men. The name setta literally means snow shoes. The technique jikazuge fixes the leather bottom directly on the top.

Formerly footwear is called Sekida and was created for tea master Sen no Rikyu to be used in the garden of his tea house on snowy days. The name was changed from sekida to “setta” when migrated to eastern Japan.

10 traditional Japanese shoes

Okobo - Japanese High Heel Clog

Okobo [おこぼ] are thick wooden clogs, a type of high heels used by an apprentice geisha (maiko). Its name changes region and may also be known by pokkuri, koppori, pokkuriko and bokkurigeta. That’s because some have a hole in their sole with a bell to make noise.

As well as the geta, your practical goal is not to dirty the gi. This type of footwear was already a fashion reference, it used to lacquer wood in order to make drawings and arts. In some cases it is used together with the tabi stocking.

Children usually wear this type of shoes, especially during the festival shichigosan. It has a large base cut from a single piece of wood, usually made of paulownia. The height of an okobo can reach up to 15 centimeters.

10 traditional Japanese shoes

Waraji - the poor man's slipper

Waraji [草鞋] is a traditional Japanese shoe used in the past by ordinary people and was made using straw ropes. The toes traditionally protrude slightly over the edge of the waraji.

The waraji they are made with rice straw or hemp, cotton and palm. Ropes made of the same material wrap around the ankles and secure the sole to the foot. Today waraji are still used in festivals and by Buddhist monks.

It should not be used on hard or paved soil, it will wear out and decrease its durability. This shoe was useful in the past when there were no paved roads, walking on the ground allowed the soil to enter the straw cracks, thus reducing friction wear. 

10 traditional Japanese shoes

Other Traditional Footwear from Japan

Kigutsu - Wooden Boots

Kigutsu [木靴] are wooden boots, all or the main part, like the bottom, is made of wood. Can be used to refer to other wooden shoes like asagutsu, geta and other wooden shoes of foreign origin.

Shigai - Silk Shoes

Shigai [絲鞋] are silk thread shoes worn by underage royal families, children’s dance costumes and young shrine maidens who participate in Shinto ceremonies.

Jika-tabi - Socks becoming shoes

Jika-tabi was invented and popularized during the 1900s. These shoes are practically tabi socks with a more resistant sole, they are generally used by Japanese people who work outdoors like jinrikisha.

10 traditional Japanese shoes

Different categories of traditional Japanese shoes

As promised, we showcase 10 traditional Japanese shoes, but there are many others that were invented in Japan in the modern era or variations on traditional geta and zori. Below I will try to add some more variations of these shoes:

We recommend reading our guide that talks about the Japanese footwear, sizes and vocabulary. I hope you enjoyed our article, if you did, don’t forget to share and leave your comments.

  • Taka-ashida geta - Wooden sandals made to be used in rain and bad weather;
  • Hiyori geta / Masa geta - Traditional wooden sandals with two teeth used during good weather;
  • Ashida [足駄] - Tall clogs; rain clogs;
  • Yamageta [山下駄] - Mountain geta, gross geta, usually made from Japanese cedar; 
  • Hachitsuwari [八ツ割] - Clog without teeth;
  • Kōshi [厚歯] - Clogs with thick teeth in the anterior-posterior direction;
  • Sandaru [サンダル] - Term of western origin to refer to some sandals from Japan;

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