As it is customary to go shoeless indoors in Japan, the tabi, a cotton sock which has a separate compartment for the big toe, has traditionally been worn indoors.

For outdoor wear, thonged shoes called zori or geta were worn, designed to be easily slipped on and off. Getas are made of wood, and often feature stilts or platforms to lift the wearer off the ground, for reasons of status and beauty, and to prevent the soiling of the feet.

The labouring classes normally wore shoes made of vegetable fibres, such as rice straw, and infinite inventions for the feet were devised to facilitate labour. The Ainu, Japan's indigenous people, made loose boots from salmon skin.

For conservation reasons, and in order to show more variety over time, only a selection of footwear from the permanent collection is displayed in our exhibitions at any one time. This means there's always something new to see.

image of Japanese footwear