Japanese inspired footwear

Last month I wrote about traditional Japanese footwear called geta. This month I thought I would write about modern footwear inspired by the Japanese. This casual footwear has many names and sometimes I’m confused as to what to call this footwear. They can be called sandals, flip flops and thongs. I will call them Japanese slippers as that was the term I grew up with.

When my father was growing up in post World War II Malaya, he wanted a pair of Japanese slippers because all his friends had a pair. But my great-grandfather refused to allow my father to buy a pair of Japanese slippers. Such was the hostility towards the Japanese after the war. I have two sets of grandparents, one set who live in West Malaysia (formerly Malaya) and another set in Sarawak, East Malaysia (formerly known as British Borneo). None of my grandparents had anything good to say about the Japanese occupation of Malaya and British Borneo. There are many things that don’t get taught in history books, but let’s focus on the footwear.

Havaianas is a famous Brazilian brand that makes this type of Japanese slipper. The first Havaiana slipper was produced in 1962 in São Paulo, and the inspiration for Havaianas was the zori, a Japanese straw sandal. Nowadays, Japanese slippers are made of rubber or synthetic materials. This type of Japanese slipper is now truly global and can be found everywhere. It is common footwear all throughout South East Asia. 

In New Zealand, it is now late summer, going into autumn, and it is still warm enough to wear sandals. In New Zealand, the Japanese slipper is called jandals. This is a New Zealand word, and is actually a trademark. The word ‘jandal’ is believed to have come about from joining the word ‘Japanese’ and ‘sandal’.

In New Zealand, this time of the year is when students go back to school and university starts. During orientation week at university, many businesses, clubs and organizations promote themselves to students. During this time, it is common to get free stuff from these companies in their efforts to market themselves. Common freebies are things like coupons, chocolates, sweets, calendars, pens and stationery, coffee and soft drinks. Imagine my surprise when this year I received free Japanese slippers from a student organization. I came across these people on campus, one pushing a wheelbarrow full of black and white slippers. How could I resist free footwear? And more importantly, they had slippers in my size. So I filled out their survey and instantly became the owner of a pair of Japanese slippers with promotional wording on the thongs. The words are ‘Start the journey’ on the right foot and ‘Student life’ (the name of the organization) on the left foot. I applaud this extremely creative marketing tool. Why shouldn’t footwear be used as advertising space?

My free footwear, perfect for the beach

I also came across these handcarved New Zealand jandals called Kiwi Soles. These are Japanese slippers with two colours where the colour of the soles is different from the top. Each pair has been handcarved in New Zealand with unique kiwi designs on them. Japanese slippers are perfect for the beach and casual wear.

Jandals with kiwi designs, hand carved in New Zealand