One pair to get you through the year
Are you from Hawaii? If you are… help me out here. At Pearl Ridge Elementary School (during the 70s) we went through a footwear boom called “Klonks”. It was just around the time that coolots (the jeans type) and those feathered clip-on decorations you put in your hair, were popular.
Now, do you remember those slip-on wooden shoes with the japanese material straps that, true to the name, made a “Klonking” noise as you walked down the cement outdoor hallway? Natsukashii! (nostalgic in Japanese)
Now that I’ve been in Japan for 27 years, I realize that so many of the trends for us in elementary school at that time, actually came from Japan. From Kikaida to pencil cases. What fun to remember it all!
At least in age, I am or should be, grown up. As an adult and living in Yokohama, Japan, I now often discover the depth and meaning to various Japanese items each and every day.
My friend Osami Kitazono runs a Facebook page called Japanese Culture & Style which is a treasure trove of the wonderful and beautiful of Japanese culture.
Browsing means Remembering for a Kamaaina
As I browse the lovely photos on Osami’s page, photos of simple and sweet daily aspects of Japanese life, I appreciate again the elegance of the Geta footwear. I remember my Japanese American classmate’s mom saying “Don’t forget your zori slipper!” as we headed out to the beach and for us in Hawaii, having the coolest slippers around brings oohs and aahs from all. Geta, the elevated and more formal slipper, is a mainstay in Japanese dress.
The Geta itself is an art from ancient times. When you see how muggy the air becomes over the summer and also how often people remove their footwear during every day activity, you will understand how this perfectly functional, comfortable and lovely footwear came to be. Imagine a smartly fit kimono encasing your body in light cotton or silk. You have just greeted your host at the home entrance (Genkan) and are invited to step up inside for tea. You can deftly remove your cool bare (if you are a guy) or tabi-covered (ladies almost always wear tabi socks and guys do very often) feet from your geta without even looking down.
As super model and super mom Miranda Kerr mentioned in a recent interview in Japan, another lovely part of removing your slippers is stepping up on to the foyer and bending down to organize your slippers facing out. You change the direction of your shoes as a sign of courtesy and effort to keep the entrance looking organized and nice. Thanks for noticing Miranda!
Then, after a cup of tea, a sweet Wagashi snack and a few words while sharing the view of the garden from a tatami-matted room, it is time to say Goodbye.
The Geta straps are equal on both sides so you don’t have to consider right or left. You step gracefully into your slippers, turn around and give a kind bow of thanks to your host.
Geta will relax your knees and give you a sense of calm
To stroll in Geta is to feel the calm shape of the earth just underneath. There is a different technique for Geta, less stepping, more of a shuffle effect. Your knees are relaxed as you move forward and the entire mechanic of the walk makes you feel fluid and soft. Perfect for the loose earth on park and garden paths across Japan, I definitely recommend your footwear of choice throughout your stay be either Geta (a little or a lot elevated) or Zori (more flat on the ground and casual). Keep your feet cool, healthy, quiet and relaxed in the easy sole of Geta.
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