Thursday, February 24, 2011


Z came down the stairs with a sweet grin stretched across his face. I looked up and I saw a mess of rope dangling from his hands. I was alarmed. Then I looked lower and I saw Z's left foot sheathed in a roped, hand-crafted flip flop and the other foot  bare. I was relieved.

After scrutinizing Z's zori in my hand I realized that it takes obsession to make a zori (out of rope) and even more of an obsession to wear one. Particularly if it were made of rope. For the past week or so Z had been studying the art of making zori. Zori, for those of you who know not yet, is Japanese footwear that has been around since the Haien period (794 - 1185) before western shoes became popular. They were originally made of rice straw or other plant fibres, sometimes cloth and apparently sometimes even of rope. It takes a sadist to invent one out of rope and a masochist to wear one of rope. It hurts. 

Me masochist. 

When I saw the finished pair proudly displayed by Z and his satisfied expression I was smitten. They were flat and thonged. They were handsome. They were rustic. They had character.  They were the work of a perfectionist. What more could a woman want. They looked better and cuter than the rubber, mass produced, boring flip flops that I wear now and I thought they would make great house slippers. I knew I needed a pair.... I wanted a pair. And I requested Z to make a pair. For me. Since he was obsessed he grinned even wider.

Z spent a good part of the afternoon and part of the evening making a pair for me. By the time I came home from an outing with H at about nine in the evening I had a zori.  For free. It looked so good and it was so painful. 

But that's the price one has to pay to look pretty. And it does look pretty. In a rustic kind of way. As of now my feet are still breaking them in. I am determined to wear them. I can smell my own tenacity. And I have announced many a time at the dinner table that once I'm done breaking them in I could climb Mount Kinabalu barefoot. Like a goat.

If I could wear killer 4 inch heels in my heyday (all day) with the prospect of deforming my toes with naught health benefits, and if upper and middle class Chinese ladies of old had had their feet painfully bound and deformed for life for their men, all in the name of beauty and sensuality, what are zoris I asked myself. Especially if they're going to give me the regal posture of a queen, stimulate vital energy and blood flow throughout my body, reduce stress, improve balance and enhance my physical and mental well being.

At the least zoris are not confined to women and are, therefore, historically, not markers of gender or class, and could, in my opinion, certainly be a panacea for the flat footed.

As I wear them around the house all I feel is a kind of discomfort at first. I've never had foot reflexology but I suspect  that it hurts in the way a foot reflexology would hurt.  It feels very much like walking the pebbled reflexology walking paths at the park. As I walk on it more often I feel less discomfort and more attuned to the pressure points. Z has broken in to his.  And I intend to break mine in because ....

" Once you become use to them and the hanao becomes loose, you will need to push and press down with your toes more firmly to hold them in place, this stimulation of your toes and the build up of the muscles in your feet from wearing Zori will not only make your feet healthier but will have a excellent effect on your body in general. As you may know Reflexologists believe that each organ and muscle are connected by a network of nerves to a point on the foot where the energy terminates. By walk in zori these points are massaged and in addition your spine will become straighter, making your posture more beautiful accordingly."

And ..

"Conceivably, Japan could blame many of its foot problems on the West. Before the start of the Meiji Era in 1868, almost all footwear was either geta (wooden sandals) or zori (thonglike sandals, often made of straw).

I am so breaking them in. Or are they supposed to break me in?


  1. Wow,you've made these yourselves? Kudos! And so well made too... love the rusticity of it.

  2. Love the rustic look and all the health benefits, not-too-sure about the pain, associated with the 'zori'. Would like to know how long it takes you to "break them in".

    I hope you are enjoying your new space. I love attics. They hold lots of secrets and are a great place to escape.


  3. Fantastic that Z made these Zori for you. They are not only rustic in look but brings so much health benefits to you...mmmmm I don't mind having a pair too :) ..I dun mind walking in them ...good reflexology for my feet. No pain no gain :p

    Z can make such a neat job on it. Well done and let us know how long it took you to 'break them in '