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Geta (下駄) are a type of traditional Japanese sandals designed with a flat wooden base called Dai (台, lit., “stand”), elevated with one, two or three 4-5cm “teeth” called Ha (歯, lit., “tooth”), and held on the foot with a fabric thong called Hanao (鼻緒). Geta sandals originates from China and have been imported in Japan during the Heian period (794 to 1185). While they can also be worn with a Kimono, Japanese wooden sandals are considered as unformal footwear and are most commonly worn with a Yukata or a Jinbei. They also can be paired with Tabi socks.
Geta sandals were most likely imported in Japan from China during the Heian period (794 to 1185). Japanese people at that time were fascinated by this new style of footwear and incorporated these wooden sandals drastically into their lifestyle for a specific reason. As feudal Japan were mostly a very rural Japan, the purpose of the Geta sandals were to keep the feet over the ground to keep them away from the mood, the dirt, but most likely to avoid to get their clothes dirty.
Indeed, high-ranking courtesans and Geisha of the feudal period in Japan wore very tall Geta sandals when walking in a parade with their attendants to avoid their very expensive kimono to drag on the dirty floor.
And some seafood and fish merchants also used very high Geta with particularly long teeth to keep their feet above any scraps of fish on the floor of their shops.
However, despite their popularity in Japan, Geta Sandals are considered a lower class footwear. Members of higher social classes worn mostly Zori sandals.
Anatomy and Parts
Geta sandals mostly consists of 3 different parts:
- Dai (台, lit. “stand”): The unfinished wooden board were the foot sits
- Ha (歯, lit. “tooth”): The one, two or three wooden “teeth” that elevate the Dai
- Hanao (鼻緒): The fabric thong that consists of a strap and a toe post
Types of Geta
In Japan, it exists different types of Geta sandals, each designed for a certain purpose and worn by higher or lower social class Japanese people. Here are the most common types of Japanese Geta:
1. Koma Geta
Also called classic Geta, Koma Geta are the most common type of Geta worn in Japan. Usually made of lightweight paulownia wood, koma-Geta feature the classic two teeth that elevate the wooden board.
Men’s Geta tend to have a rectangular shape, while women’s Geta often have more oval curves. Koma Geta are most often worn with a yukata during the summer season.
2. Senryou Geta
Also called nomeri-Geta, Senryou Geta feature a slanted front tooth. Since Geta are designed to be tilted forward when walking, the slope is intended to make them easier to wear. While koma-Geta become easier to walk on after the teeth have worn down a bit over time, senryo-Geta are shaped to perform well from the moment they are created.
3. Tengu Geta
Tengu Feta have only one tooth placed in the center of the sole. Moving with this kind of sandals requires an extraordinary training and a lot of balance, they are generally reserved to traditional theater actors.
4. Ukon Geta
Ukon Geta are a more modern type of Geta that features a lower profile with a contemporary design, much like a wedge sandal. Not as high as the koma-Geta, with a wider non-slip sole, these are much easier to slip on and are popular with young yukata wearers. They are like ordinary sandals and can be worn without discomfort in the summer season.
5. Ashi da
Ashi da (lit. high Geta) is another type of Geta sandals that can be found even in today’s Japan. Featuring a much simpler hanao (thong) than other Geta, these towering sandals can change the way you see the world! In the past, ashi-da were popular with male school children, and were part of the Gakuran, the “classic school uniforms”.
5. Pokkuri Geta
Pokkuri Geta, also called okobo-Geta, do not have teeth like other Geta and are instead shaped like a slanted block. They are seen adorning the feet of maiko (geisha apprentices) and are part of a girl’s Shichi-go-san outfit. The height of the pokkuri-Geta allows the wearer to walk without staining the hem of the official kimono, but its shape forces it to be worn in the street! A similar but lower and simpler model is the zori, which nowadays tends to be the shoe of choice for kimono outfits on formal occasions.
Where to buy Geta Sandals?
Japanese-clothing.com is definitely the best place to buy your traditional Japanese footwear. Our catalog covers a wide range of Japanese shoes and sandals for men and women and at cheap prices! That you’re looking for traditional Japanese wooden shoes or comfortable Geta sandals, Japanese Clothing have you covered!
How to wear Geta sandals?
Geta are less formal type of Japanese sandals that are mostly worn with a Yukata, the summer kimono in Japan. Traditionally, Geta sandals are worn without socks, but it’s not a strict rule. So, if your feet get cold, you can put on tabi socks to let the Geta strap pass between your toes.
To adjust your Geta Sandals to your feet, you need to tighten the strap by pulling on the threads under the “Dai” between the two “Ha”.
Is it normal that my foot protrudes from the back of the sandal?
Yes, absolutely. Geta are made much smaller than regular shoes because having part of your heel protrude from the back of the sandal is considered a perfect fit according to Japanese customs.
How to walk in Geta Sandals?
Getting used to wearing Geta sandals properly can take some time and practice for a foreigners.
The key to wearing the Geta is to get the famous Karankoron, or click-clack sound, when you walk. Rather than “wearing” a normal shoe, it’s best to think of it as “wearing” the Geta with your feet, lifting the sandals with your toes and the top of your foot. Also, unlike the heel-to-heel step used to wear heels, Geta are best worn when you walk with a toe-to-heel step.
If your feet hurt just thinking about putting on Geta, don’t worry! Prepare the Geta by gently stretching the strap of the hanao, and a touch of talcum powder between the toes can do wonders to keep nasty blisters at bay. It’s also easier to choose a modern, more comfortable style of Geta when you’re wearing them for the first time in your life.