Tag: Japan

By Melissa Locker for Fast Company

High heels are a pain in the neck—and the foot and the back and the legs for the people who have to wear them. Sure they can look good and feel empowering, but wearing the sky-high footwear should be a choice, not a requirement. And yet in many offices around the world women are forced to wear high heels as part of the office dress code.

In Japan, women are starting to fight back. Over 19,000 people have signed a petition calling on Japan to end dress code requirements that force women to wear heels in the workplace.

The petition was started by Yumi Ishikawa, who says she was made to wear high heels while working at a funeral parlor, the BBC reports. She took to Twitter to vent about being forced to wear heels, and her tweets struck a chord and went viral. That tweet helped ignite a campaign called #KuToo, which, as Kyodo News reports, cleverly references the #MeToo movement as well as the Japanese words for shoes (“kutsu”) and pain (“kutsuu”).

Ishikawa told reporters that the petition was submitted to Japan’s labor officials. The hope is that officials will ban mandatory heels in the workplace on the grounds that such requirements amount to sexual discrimination or harassment.

“I hope this campaign will change the social norm so that it won’t be considered to be bad manners when women wear flat shoes like men,” she told reporters.

So far, the Japanese government is unmoved by the petition. An official at Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s equal employment opportunity division told CNN it had “no plans to change the rules around whether employers could require staff to wear certain clothes or shoes.” Currently, companies can regulate their employees’ work wear as they see fit, and in Japan’s historically patriarchal society, that means high heels (for now).

It’s not just Japan, though. After over 150,000 people signed a petition, the British government still rejected a ban on dress codes that required women to wear high heels in 2017 on the grounds that gender-based discrimination was already illegal and high heels were just a part of looking smart in the office. But that same year, British Columbia did away with a dress code that required female employees to wear high heels, citing the risk of physical injury from slipping or falling as well as possible damage to the feet, legs, and back.

Ask a Japanese person what mizuhiki is, and you’ll get responses referring to the intricately twisted cord decoration found on traditional, celebratory gift-envelopes found in Japan.

That answer isn’t wrong, since the cords are the most commonly seen form of this unique style of art, but mizuhiki is certainly far more than that.

Mizuhiki is an old, traditional art form first introduced to Japan from Sui dynasty China during the Asuka era (550-710 A.D.), and is used for far more than making decorative cords for envelopes. The works of art made today using the historic method of tightly wound, starched, and colored rice paper are nothing short of gorgeous.

Hiromi Nagasawa, who was originally a graphic artist from Tokyo, is now making original mizuhiki for wedding and engagement gifts, and has her own store in Fukuoka Prefecture. Her works have rightly gained a lot of attention for their intricacy and sheer beauty.

While these pieces don’t quite hold the same importance in ceremonial gift-giving as they once did, they are still highly valued works of art.

By Meg Murphy for www.japantoday.com

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