Geta

December 15, 2016

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa and Kanako Wakamatsu

Maybe you know “Kimono”, which is a traditional style of Japanese clothing, but how about “Geta”?  Geta are a kind of shoe or sandal, and Japanese people wear them when they wear Kimono, like women wear high heels when they wear dresses.  Here, we are going to introduce Geta to you in three ways:

  • What are Geta?
  • History of Geta
  • Different types of Geta

In addition, we are also going to give you some surprising facts about this interesting Japanese clothes item.

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Geta

What are Geta?

As we mentioned before, Geta are a kind of old Japanese style shoe and people wear them with Kimono or Yukata, in general.

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Kimono

Geta are usually made of wood, with the price changing by the kind of wood used. If Geta are made of “Kiri”, for example, then they would be a high price indeed. There are some different styles of geta, but in general, they have three main components to them; “Dai”, “Ha”, and “Hanao”.  Dai is the base board that people put their feet on, and Ha are the pieces of wood that support the Dai from below. Ha means teeth in Japanese, and the name comes from the side view of a Geta.  Geta usually have 2 “Ha”. The Hanao is made of cloth and it is placed on the Dai. When people wear Geta, the Hanao passes between the big toe and the second toe, a little like a beach sandal. Geta consist of these 3 parts, and this type of Geta is the latest type. Then, how about the old style?

History of Geta

In olden times, Geta were made and used as work shoes in Japan. In the Yayoi period (about BC 300 ~ BC 300) people in Japan started using “Ta-Geta” (“Ta” means “rice field” in Japanese). At that time, rice farming was started, and people could not move easily in the rice fields because the ground was muddy and soft. Therefore, they made Ta-Geta to make it easier to work in rice fields. However, Ta-Geta did not have Ha and their Hanao were made of straw. Furthermore, another style, “Nezura-Geta” (“Nezura” is a kind of fish in Japan), were used on the beach or in the shallows. Nezura-Geta had needles attached to their soles, like spiked shoes, and people wore them to catch fish.

During the Heian period, (BC 794 ~ BC 1185), one type of Geta, “Takaba”, which had only one Ha, were worn by priests. They usually wore them when they climbed up and down a mountain. It sounds very difficult to climb up and down a mountain wearing Takaba, but apparently they were quite suitable for slippery mountain roads. However, towards the end of this era, nearly all the common people wore “Zouri” (that were made only of straw and very simple) instead of Geta, and Geta became a rare and expensive thing for the average person.   

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Zouri

It wasn’t until the Edo era (BC 1603 ~ BC 1868) that people started to wear Geta again, and this was because people started to become more interested in fashion.  They wore Geta not only as work shoes, but also as a fashion item. Also, up to then, Geta had usually only been worn on rainy days, however, from the middle of the Edo period, people began to wear them on sunny days, too. Thereafter, the skill of making Geta improved and the shops selling them began to appear, and in greater numbers. Because of this, more than 200 kinds of Geta were made at that time, and Geta became more and more famous among common people. So, what types are there around now?

Different types of Geta

Actually, there are many kinds of Geta still worn now, and a good example is “Ippon-Geta”. They have only one Ha, supporting piece, and are very good for your body balance. If you wear them, it can make your upper body stronger. It is also said that wearing Ippon-Geta can heal back pain or gonalgia, too. Another type is called “Tengu-Geta” because it has been said this type of Geta was worn by Tengu, a sort of Japanese monster, and also god, that has a long nose and red face. This simple variety is very similar to the Ta-Geta we introduced earlier.

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Ippon-Geta

Finally, we have “Okobo”. Okobo are often worn by Maiko. We talked about Maiko in a previous article:  

http://thekyotoproject.org/english/the-long-journey-of-becoming-a-maiko/)

The height of an Okobo is about 10cm, and are worn mostly by women. In the “Shichi-Go-San”, a festival in Japan to celebrate the healthy growth of children, girls often wear them. They also go by some other names, including Pokkuri, Koppori or Bokkuri, but this is different from place to place.

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Okobo

Conclusion

Geta is a traditional Japanese shoe, and, in olden times people used them as work shoes. Now, however, they are worn still as a fashion item, too. Recently, in Kyoto, the number of rental Kimono shops is increasing because of the number of foreign visitors interested in this style. If you go to one of these shops, you can try wearing Kimono and Geta and go sightseeing with them on. Also, most of the shops have hairstylists, so if you are women, you can try a traditional hairstyle. It costs around 3,000 yen 〜 6,000 yen, so we recommend you to try it. It may be difficult to walk wearing Geta for the first time, but it really is a uniquely Japanese traditional experience. You will surely enjoy Kyoto even more if you try out the old Japanese clothes style, Kimono and Geta!

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