Zori are a sandal-like type of Japanese traditional footwear. Zori were worn widely in Japan until shoes became widespread following the Meiji Restoration in the mid-nineteenth century. In modern Japan, zori are primarily worn when dressed in kimono (Japanese traditional clothing). Zori are considered more formal than geta (wooden clogs).
Types of zori
There are several types of zori, and today kawa zori (leather zori) are the most popular kind. Zori for both men and women are made with ellipse- or oval-shaped soles covered with leather, cloth or vinyl (plastic), with an insole of similar material and a thong known as a hanao. In the past, high-quality cork was used for the sole, but as the tradition of wearing kimono fell out, it was replaced with inexpensive urethane.
High-quality zori worn with formal attire had thick soles made by putting several soles together and were called 'nanmai zori.'
The outsole, which makes contact with the ground, is covered with hard urethane rubber.
These days, tatami omote zori with insoles made of bulrush and resembling tatami mats are quite rare; they are only seen in kabuki or occasionally being worn by some men.
Setta are a type of thin-soled square-shaped zori for men, with an outsole of bull leather or urethane rubber and a hanao.
Also, footwear similar to zori and made of cloth or straw, with a strap on the heel to fix it to the ankle was called waraji, and was commonly worn in day to day work.
Nowadays, in order to recycle used cloth and to wear indoor footwear with a hanao instead of slippers, more and more people make handmade cloth zori. Although these are just indoor footwear, they are gaining attention for the benefits of the hanao.
Zori and health
Due to the idea that footwear with hanao is beneficial for development of the legs, having kids wear geta or zori is attracting attention. Since the hanao must be gripped between the toes to hold on to the zori, they are thought to be good for strengthening leg muscles, forming the arch of the foot and preventing bunions. Some kindergartens, day nurseries, and elementary schools specify zori for children as part of the "barefoot lifestyle."
Zori for schoolchildren are manufactured in Misato-machi, Nara Prefecture under the name 'Misatokko.'
Usually zori are worn without socks, so one does not have to worry about sweaty feet. When wearing zori as part of a "barefoot lifestyle," one always wear zori without socks.
Sneakers with thick soles provide less stability than zori, and if the sole is worn out unevenly, they become even less stable, resulting in or worsening knock-knees, bow-legs, being hen-toed, or duck-footed. Zori are better at providing stability and strengthening physique or forming beautiful legs than modern footwear like sneakers. Today there are a lot more children who fall over quite often, cannot remain standing for a long time, or easily tire when walking. Since zori do not enclose the foot, unlike shoes or sneakers, the foot can grow wider. Wider feet can give the body more stability. For this reason, zori can be said to be good for one's health.
Similar-looking footwears for beach resorts include beach sandals, which are sometimes called 'zori.'
Beach sandals popular in Okinawa are called shima zori (island zori). Usually they are sold at inexpensive prices (100 yen to 1,000 yen). In the summer, people can be seen out and about in beach sandals to keep cool.
Kongo zori (strong, durable zori) made in the Edo period (1603-1868) were sold at three mon (an old unit of currency) for two pairs, giving rise to the expression 'nisokusanmon' (two pairs for three mon), meaning dirt cheap.