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Osaka man steps into new territory with fresh use for traditional 'geta' sandals

Participants train with one-tooth geta by wearing the sandals on their hands and walking on all-fours in Tondabayashi, Osaka Prefecture, on May 21, 2017. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- Japanese traditional summer footwear, wooden sandals called "geta," are strongly associated with yukata and other traditional Japanese dress, but are now stepping into the area of sports training. The Mainichi Shimbun followed in the footsteps of this new trend in "geta."

    In an outdoor space in Tondabayashi, Osaka Prefecture, at the end of May, people gather wearing "one-tooth geta," a variation of the sandal with a single tall plank perpendicular to the sole of the shoe, which were worn by goblins in traditional folklore. The wobbly participants practice moving around, raising their legs or jumping rope. There are even some people walking on all-fours wearing the geta on their hands.

    This is a training event held by Kyoto-based sports craftwork brand Arucuto, which produces and sells the one-tooth geta. The instructor is 29-year-old brand representative Yosuke Miyazaki.

    "In everyday life, you end up using only certain muscles and your body has a tendency to get stiff," explains Miyazaki. "When you wear the one-tooth geta and try to balance your body, you unconsciously stimulate muscles you don't use often, and you can train your body to use all your muscles together."

    First-time participant Ryuji Yamada, 22, a fourth-year student at Kobe University, comments, "I feel like all the tension in my body was released."

    Miyazaki has had an interest in sports theory since he was in junior high school, and focused on the use of the one-tooth geta as a tool to strengthen physical functions. Roughly 10 years ago, he began selling his own original geta, and continues to engage in activities to spread awareness about the physical benefits of the shoes.

    The geta are made by a woodcrafter in Nantan, Kyoto Prefecture, using only the wood of domestic empress trees. One of the aims of the business is to connect interest in sports with a demand for traditional craftsmanship.

    Along with getting the attention of professional athletes, there are also parents who purchase the sandals for their children's health, and seniors who use them to combat a backache. Those aren't the only ways to use them, though.

    "Because the sandals stimulate your entire body, for example, if you walk around in them for 10 minutes before going to sing at karaoke, your voice will come out stronger," says one of the users. Still, one has to take extra care not to fall and injure oneself in the unusual footwear.

    "It might be embarrassing to wear them by yourself, but if you wear them in a group it can be really fun," he adds. "It can even become a conversation starter."

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