Japanese geta (下駄)

Since my last post was about Chinese clogs, I thought that in this post, I would write about another kind of wooden clog – the geta, a type of Japanese wooden slipper. Geta is a traditional Japanese footwear made of wood, usually with two raised bits of wood at the bottom to create an elevated sole. A ‘hanao’ or the V-shaped thong on top keeps the foot in place. Apparently the geta came about in the Heian period (794 – 1185).

I managed to get myself a pair of geta, not in Japan though. I think it would be difficult to find footwear to fit my big feet in Japan. I bought my size 10 geta in Malaysia, but I think they are made in Thailand. My geta is a modern take on the traditional geta. It has rubber covered soles, a cartoon puppy and heart-shaped woodcut on the wood.

Shih Yen’s modern version of the traditional Japanese ‘geta’

Just like with Chinese clogs, traditional geta does not have a left or right side. The hanao (or thong) is in the middle so that it is possible to wear the geta on either foot. However, my modern geta has the hanao slightly off-centre so that a left and right foot is clearly distinguishable.

When I wear my geta, friends always ask me, “Is that comfortable?” This question takes me by surprise because if you don’t mind the clacking sound, the geta is one of the most comfortable footwear that I have ever worn. It’s like walking barefoot on a wooden floor. I can guarantee that you will not get any blisters while wearing geta. No one ever asks me this question when I’m wearing stilettos or high heels and they are much more uncomfortable than the geta.

Geta are traditionally worn with Japanese kimono or yukata (summer cotton kimono), but they can also be worn as casual footwear with everyday clothes. When wearing yukata, it is not usual to wear socks (or tabi) with the geta.

Shih Yen wears geta with her handsewn summer yukata. It is hard to distinguish the wood floor from the wooden geta!