Hello Kitty bullet train and sneakers

There are some things that are very much associated with Japan, like bullet trains and Hello Kitty. And now the two have come together. West Japan Railway Co. has just unveiled its latest Hello Kitty shinkansen, or bullet train. This pink and white train with a Hello Kitty theme throughout started service on 30 June and will run for 3 months, connecting areas in western Japan. You can see more about the train here.


Hello Kitty is a cartoon cat with no mouth and a ribbon over her left ear. She is from the Japanese company Sanrio, designed by Yuko Shimizu in 1974. Hello Kitty first appeared on a coin purse in 1975, and has a huge following, especially among Asian women. Hello Kitty is now on all sorts of merchandise and is worth billions of dollars to Sanrio.

Back in 2013, I bought my first pair of Hello Kitty sneakers. You can read about that here. I still have these sneakers and I still wear them. I have had them repaired once, and after 5 years, they are kind of falling apart. So I bought another pair of Hello Kitty sneakers.

Shih Yen’s first pair of canvas Hello Kitty sneakers back when they were new.

Shih Yen’s first pair of Hello Kitty sneakers has been repaired and has seen better days.

My first pair of Hello Kitty sneakers were made in China and they fit me well. This second pair of Hello Kitty sneakers that I recently bought are made in Japan and they are too small for me. I bought the biggest size that was available, but they are still too small for me.

Shih Yen’s latest pair of Hello Kitty sneakers, which are a bit small.

You would think that, after all my past experiences, I should have learned by now that Japanese footwear and socks for women are never going to fit me. I don’t know why I never seem to learn this lesson. It’s like I’m in denial that Japanese footwear is too small for me. So, again I repeat the same mistake. But I’ll still squeeze my feet into these sneakers and hope that the shoes will stretch with time.


Sneakers and gangs in El Salvador

I have to admit that I don’t know much about El Salvador, a small country in Central America. I thought that the only thing I knew about El Salvador came from watching the movie Sin Nombre. Then later, I realized that the movie Sin Nombre really isn’t about El Salvador! It’s filmed in Mexico, set in a Mexican town near the border with Guatemala and is about a teen girl from Honduras trying to cross illegally into the USA.

So my geography of Central America isn’t that good. It doesn’t help that Central American countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all have a similar blue and white flag that I can’t differentiate. Guatemala also has a flag with similar colours.

Can you blame me for not being able to tell Central American countries apart when their flags look so similar?

The reason that I thought the movie Sin Nombre was about El Salvador was because this movie is also about gangs, specifically the Mara Salvatrucha gang. The Mara Salvatrucha gang is also known as MS-13, MS or Mara. Members of this gang are mostly from El Salvador. Hence, the reason why I was confused, and thought that the movie Sin Nombre was about El Salvador.

The Mara Salvatrucha gang is active in Central America and the USA. Their main rival is the 18th Street gang, also called Calle 18 or Barrio 18. Both Honduras and El Salvador have the dubious honour of being the capital of murders, gangs, drugs, kidnapping and extortion. Gang violence is part of the reason why Honduras and El Salvador are both at the top of the list of countries with the highest murder rates in the world. Of the top 10 cities in the world with the highest murder rates, half the cities on that list are in Central America. One of the cities on the list is San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, with a homicide rate of 83 per 100,000 people. It is estimated that 60% of these murders are due to gang violence.

What has all this got to do with shoes? Well, I may not know much about El Salvador, but I do know what type of shoes Salvadoran gang members wear. Don’t ask me how I know. I read it somewhere. Apart from looking at the more obvious gang tattoos, you can tell a person’s gang affiliation by looking at their shoes. Members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang wear Nike Cortez sneakers. This is a classic Nike style, making its debut in 1972. Apparently this sneaker was named for Hernan Cortes, the Spanish Conquistador. Incidentally this is also the sneaker that Forrest Gump wore in the movie when he ran across the USA.

Nike Cortez sneakers are worn by members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang.

Members of rival 18th Street gang favour Adidas Concha sneakers.

Adidas Concha sneakers – favoured by members of the 18th Street gang.

Wearing the wrong sneakers or the wrong colours in the wrong areas of Central America will seriously get you killed.

Valentine’s Day and shoes

I’ve been writing this blog for over 6 years and I have never done a Valentine’s Day themed blog post. Since it’s February, I thought that for the first time, I would write a Valentine’s Day post.

Valentine’s Day is named for one or more obscure saints named Valentine. There is also a legend of a priest named Valentine who was imprisoned for helping Christian couples get married. Whatever the history, it seems that Valentine’s Day first became associated with romantic love or courtly love in the 14th century when the writer Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about birds finding their mate on Valentine’s Day. This was in Chaucer’s poem ‘Parlement of Foules’ in 1382.

These days, Valentine’s Day is so commercialized. It seems to be all about selling flowers, chocolates, cards and soft toys. Can this day really be associated with footwear? I am going to say ‘Yes’ and show you some examples. You can also read about falling in love with shoes here

Flowers for Valentine’s Day? Yes! This is one of my favourite pairs of shoes from Camper TWINS range, featuring daisies. This is now a very vintage style, and these shoes were made in Spain. I have to admit I fell in love at first sight with this pair of shoes and I bought them without a second thought. It is also the most expensive pair of shoes that I have ever bought.

Shih Yen fell in love at first sight with this pair of Camper shoes from their TWS range.

Cupids at Valentine’s Day? Yes! In classical mythology, Cupid is the God of desire and Love. He is the son of Venus the goddess of Love, and Mars the God of War. In Greek mythology, Cupid is called Eros. During the classical Greek period, Eros was depicted as a youth with wings, but later Cupid was depicted as a small and chubby boy with wings. Cupid is portrayed with wings and a bow and arrow. Anyone who is shot with Cupid’s arrow will fall in love. This pair of shoes featuring Cupid is also one of my favourite shoes. It is by a Venezuelan label Hot Chocolate Design, from their Chocolaticas range.

Shih Yen’s pair of Chocolaticas shoes in the style ‘Cupid’.

Soft toys on Valentine’s Day? Yes! These are limited edition sneakers made by Adidas, featuring plush teddy bears on them. They were released in 2010 and in my opinion, they are super cute. The original purpose of the sneakers were for basketball, though to be honest, I don’t know how a person can run with soft toys on their feet! I have actually seen people wearing these sneakers, so it is possible to walk in them.

Adidas JS Bear xJeremy Scott sneakers. Photograph © 2014 U-Dox, from ‘Sneakers: The Complete Limited Editions Guide’, published by Thames & Hudson.

Chocolates on Valentine’s Day? Definitely, yes! This is a chocolate bar sandal by Malaysian designer Terry Poe.

Chocolate bar sandal by Malaysian designer Terry Poe.

Ice cream on Valentine’s Day? Yes! I always think sharing an ice cream can be very romantic. These are some ice cream shoes from a Thai label Madame Flamingo. Madame Flamingo is a label started by Thai designer Pantila Promfang. All her shoes are handmade.

Ice cream high heeled shoes from Thai label Madame Flamingo.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone on the 14th of February. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing on the 14th, I hope you have a great day filled with love. shihyenshoes sends lots of love. ❤ ❤ ❤

Happy St Nicholas’ Day!

It is December, which means that Christmas is coming soon. Santa Claus is believed to have come from St Nicholas, a bishop in the fourth century. St Nicholas’ Day is on the 6th of December. There is a European tradition associated with shoes on this day. On the eve of St Nicholas’ Day, children leave their shoes or boots out. St Nicholas will come in a sleigh drawn by a white horse and leave goodies in the shoes of good children. These are treats like oranges, apples, gingerbread, sweets, chocolates and nuts. This is a tradition in European countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia and Romania. I think it’s a great tradition, though I wonder about the hygiene of putting food inside footwear.

Here’s the perfect sparkly sneaker for the festive season. Merry Christmas to all readers and see you in the new year.

Purple sparkly Deelo canvas sneaker by Deuce (photo by Ely Rodrigues).


The origins of Nike sneakers

Today, this blog turns 6 years old. To be honest, I’m amazed that I’m still writing it. I thought it was something that would last 3 years maybe, but it’s still going.

This month, I thought I would write about the origins of Nike sneakers. In the 1960s, Phil Knight was a middle distance runner at the University of Oregon. His pet event was running one mile. He wanted sneakers with better traction for running. One day, he experimented by putting a piece of rubber in a waffle iron and heated it. This produced a waffle-shaped pattern in the rubber.

After graduation, Phil Knight went on a round-the-world trip in 1962. In Kobe, Japan, he discovered Tiger brand shoes, which were cheap and of good quality. He started selling Tiger shoes in the USA. In 1964, Phil Knight partnered with his former running coach at the University of Oregon to sell the shoes, under the company name of Blue Ribbon Sports. In the early days, Phil sold shoes out of the back of his car at track meets. The first employee of Nike suggested renaming the company Nike. In 1978, Blue Ribbon Sports changed its company name to Nike.

A Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 women’s running shoe, with the distinctive Nike ‘swoosh’ logo.

The brand Nike (pronounced Nigh-kee) is named after Nike, the ancient Greek goddess of victory. In ancient Greece, Nike is normally portrayed with wings, golden sandals and wreaths. Nike the goddess, flies around battle fields rewarding the winners with a wreath of laurel leaves. Nike the brand, manufactures sneakers with a tread and higher-traction sole for running. The Nike ‘swoosh’ logo is one of the most recognized brand logos around.

Minnie Mouse Keds sneakers (part 2)

Don’t you hate it when something goes on sale after you have already bought it? It makes me want to buy the thing again just to get the discount, even though that makes no economic sense. This situation happened to me recently with Minnie Mouse sneakers.  You can read about the first time I bought the sneakers here.

Shih Yen’s pair of Keds Minnie Mouse sneakers with platform soles.

The retail price for the Minnie Mouse sneakers with platform soles is NZ$119. I bought them on sale for $69, which I thought was good. But after I had bought them, they were discounted further to $49! That is so frustrating! Since they were on (even more of a) sale, I bought another pair of Minnie Mouse sneakers in a different design. This time I bought one with flat soles, not platform soles. Even though they are the same size and from the same brand, I find the flat sole sneakers more comfortable than the platform soles. The ones with platform soles seem narrower and pinch my toes more.

Shih Yen’s pair of Keds Minnie Mouse sneakers with flat soles.

Keds is an old American sneaker brand, dating from 1916. Equally, Minnie Mouse is also an old icon, first appearing in 1928. I love them together – Minnie Mouse on Keds sneakers. Since the beginning in 1916, Keds has always focused on female empowerment, and they have a tagline ‘Ladies first since 1916’. Keds also has the motto: ‘A lady can do anything she wants in the right pair of shoes’.

A Malaysian cobbler

The word ‘cobbler’ is such an old-fashioned word. A cobbler is a person who repairs shoes, and it also seems an old-fashioned profession. With an increasingly disposable/consumer society and with increasing labour costs, these days it is becoming cheaper and easier to throw things away rather than to try and repair them.

In Malaysia though, cobblers are still very cheap. For example, gluing back a shoe’s soles costs about 30 US cents, and you can also bargain with the cobbler. Malaysian cobblers are much cheaper than cobblers in first world countries because in Malaysia, cobblers don’t work out of a proper shop. In general, you can find cobblers sitting on the footpath.

A Malaysian cobbler. It’s common to find cobblers working on the footpath in Malaysia.

As I was going home to Malaysia, I purposely brought with me 2 pairs of footwear to be repaired. I love both pairs of footwear, or I wouldn’t have bothered to get them mended. One was a simple glue-on job, but the other was more complicated, the soles of my sneakers having cracked on both shoes. I wore the sneakers with cracked soles on the flight home and hoped that they would survive the long plane ride. I brought with me only those 2 pairs of footwear, and I knew if I couldn’t get them repaired, I would have to buy some new shoes.

Shih Yen’s Hello Kitty sneakers with the cracked soles.

I found the cobbler in the Atria shopping area of Damansara Jaya, near the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. There’s more than one cobbler working in this area. I call my cobbler by his title of Tuan Haji. He brings the tools of his trade in a suitcase and sets up a stall on the footpath outside a closed shop.

The cobbler working on the simple glue-on job.

The cobbler working on the Hello Kitty sneakers with the cracked soles.

The cobbler did my glue-on job immediately while I waited. He even provided me with a pair of spare slippers to wear as I waited. The sneaker repair was completed on the same day. He glued together my cracked soles and then stitched all along the sides of my sneakers. The cost (after a bit bargaining) was RM 18 (less than US$5). I am happy with his workmanship and I’m confident that my sneakers can last at least a few more months.

Shih Yen’s sneakers after repair; the cracked sole had been glued and stitched up all around.