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Geta (下駄) are a form of traditional Japanese footwear resembling flip-flops. They are a kind of sandal with a flat wooden base elevated with up to three prongs, held on the foot with a fabric thong, which keeps the foot above the ground.
Oiran (花魁) – high-ranking courtesans of the feudal period in Japan – wore tall, lacquered koma-geta or mitsu-ashi (lit., "three legs") when walking in a parade with their attendants. Whereas geisha and maiko wore tabi socks, oiran chose not to, even in winter, as the bare foot against a lacquered clog was considered to be erotic, leaving the toes poking out under many layers of elaborate and flashy kimono with padded hems.
This style of geta was likely worn as a point of visual distinction between oiran, geisha and their apprentice geisha, as though the former entertained the upper classes, the latter did not, and were considered to be lower-class, despite their immense popularity.
Some seafood and fish merchants also used very high geta with particularly long teeth to keep their feet above any scraps of fish on the floor of their shops; these were known as tengu geta.
Geta are primarily worn with yukata, but sometimes also with Western clothing during the summer months. As geta are usually worn only with yukata or other informal Japanese clothes or Western clothes, there is no need to wear socks. Ordinarily, people wear slightly more formal zōri when wearing tabi.
Sometimes geta are worn in rain to keep the feet dry, due to their extra height and impermeability compared to other footwear such as zōri. They make a similar noise to flip-flops slapping against the heel whilst walking, though the inflexibility of geta means that, unlike flip-flops, water and dirt are not flipped up onto the back of the legs.
Geta are not normally worn in snow, because snow often gets stuck to the teeth of the geta, making it difficult to walk. However, in historical times, they were worn in the snow.
There are several different styles of geta. The most familiar style consists of an unfinished wooden board called a dai (台) (lit., "stand") that the foot is set upon, with a cloth thong (known as the hanao (鼻緒)) passing between the big toe and second toe.
The two supporting teeth below the base board, called the ha (歯), are also made of wood, usually very light-weight paulownia wood (known as kiri (桐)). The teeth make a distinctive "clacking" sound while walking, referred to as "karankoron" (カランコロン). This is sometimes mentioned as one of the sounds that older Japanese people miss most in modern life. A traditional saying in Japanese translates as "You don't know until you have worn geta." This means roughly, "you can't tell the results until the game is over."
The original motivation for wearing the high platform shoes was not fashion, but practicality: to keep feet from coming in contact with things on the ground, e.g. dirt, filth, water, or snow.
The dai may vary in shape, from oval shapes to more rectangular, with the former being considered more feminine and the latter more masculine. Geta also vary in colour from natural wood to lacquered or wood-stained varieties. The ha may also vary in style; for example, tengu geta have only a single centered "tooth". There are also less common geta with three teeth.
Maiko (geisha in training) wear distinctive tall geta called okobo, which are similar to the chopines worn in Venice during the Renaissance. Very young girls also wear okobo (also called "pokkuri" and "koppori") that have a small bell inside a cavity in the thick sole. These geta have no teeth, but are formed of one piece of wood. The middle part is carved out from below and the front is sloped to accommodate for walking.
Okobo for young girls are usually red in color and are not worn with yukata, but a very fancy kimono, usually the bright, colourful kimono worn for Shichi-Go-San. Okobo are usually worn with tabi socks.
Geta are made of one piece of solid wood forming the sole and two wooden blocks underneath. These blocks may have a metal plate on the section that touches the ground in order to lengthen the life span of the geta. A V-shaped thong of cloth forms the upper part of the sandal.
The teeth are usually not separate, instead, the geta is carved from one block of wood. The tengu tooth is, however, strengthened by a special attachment. The teeth of any geta may have harder wood drilled into the bottom to avoid splitting, and the soles of the teeth may have rubber soles glued onto them.
The hanao can be wide and padded, or narrow and hard, and can be made with many sorts of fabric. Printed cotton with traditional Japanese motifs is popular, but there are also geta with vinyl and leather hanao. Inside the hanao is a cord (synthetic in modern times, but traditionally hemp) that is knotted in a special way to the three holes of the dai. In the wide hanao there is some padding as well. The hanao are replaceable. It sits between the two first toes because having the thong of rectangular geta anywhere but the middle would result in the inner back corners of the geta colliding when walking.
Recently, as Western shoes have become more popular, more Western-looking geta have been developed. They are more round in shape, may have an ergonomically shaped dai, a thick heel as in Western clogs, instead of separate teeth, and the thong at the side as in flip-flops. According to Japanese superstition, breaking the thong on one's geta is considered very unlucky.
- Greve, Gabi (2016-06-10). "Edo - the EDOPEDIA -: geta wooden clogs". Edo - the EDOPEDIA -. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
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