Japan is a country of many graces: grace in manners, grace in design, grace in seasonality, to name just a few. So could it perhaps be a form of rebellion that the young women of Tokyo (well, not all, but a critical mass of them) render themselves so completely graceless by choosing the most ill-fitting footwear possible? Never have I seen so many women stumbling, shambling, hobbling, shuffling, limping & clomping in deliberately-oversized, too-high, beyond-uncomfortable shoes. They simply cannot walk. They are clearly in pain. To my outsider’s eye, they look utterly ridiculous. Obviously there is some cultural value operating there that is beyond my ability to grasp.
Back home now, on my habitual walk to neighborhood post office & bank, I felt a great sense of relief at seeing women of all ages, sizes & shapes walking gracefully, comfortably, in a huge variety of shoes—including some that would render me personally quite ungraceful, but the women wearing them had learned to walk in them gracefully, or at least effectively. As an American woman, I always understood “learning to walk in high heels” as a prerequisite for wearing same. (Which explains why I never wear them.) I remember a friend describing a pair of stilettos as “shoes you only wear from the limo to the bed” (not something I would ever put on my feet!) but she must have made sure she could walk at least that far in them without looking like she was going to fall on her face any second.
Not so in Tokyo. My cousin Travelin’ Fool goes to Japan quite a lot, so I turned to him for an explanation of these self-imposed gait problems. He said that it actually is considered sexy there. We began to speculate why: the Helpless Female taken to an absurd extreme? You look more like a little girl if your shoes are a whole size too big? Ew. Maybe it’s enough for me to feel grateful that I live in Berkeley, the Comfortable Shoe Capital of the nation, if not the entire world.
Here we are in comfy Berkeley shoes, admiring the cute chicken-motif floor tile at a yummy chicken restaurant (chicken cartilage on a stick! deep fried chicken skin! zow!) with our personal curator of Tokyo eats, the King of Nosh.
Now isn’t it just like me to come back from the most fabulous trip & start off by ranting & complaining about something? I once heard of a Norwegian motto that translated “Away good, home best.” That’s definitely me, & that’s what you’re hearing now, but never fear, the next post will be a rave.