Japanology Plus - Footwear

  • 5 years ago
Episode Number : 6
Season : 2
Originally Aired : Thursday, May 19, 2016

This edition of Japanology Plus is yet another opportunity to consider two quintessential characteristics of Japanese culture: kaleidoscopic manifestations of any social phenomenon that is perceived to have value, and a passionate attention to detail when one becomes strongly attached to any specific aspect of that phenomenon. The social phenomenon in this case is what we wear on our feet, and Peter Barakan visits a museum that showcases footwear from Japan and the world. Obviously footwear has taken many different forms in many different cultures, but somehow Japan seems to have come up with more variety than most: buckets to step into, planks to strap on, weighted "stilts" for gathering seaweed. Through the centuries, cleverly catering to existing or anticipated requirements, Japanese footwear has blossomed exotically into countless different forms, offering countless different functions. A shoe with its own air-conditioning mechanism is a fine modern embodiment of this historical diversity. Reporter Matt Alt, meanwhile, shows us a great example of that "passionate attention to detail" when he discovers the tender loving care that can be devoted to the simple act of polishing one's shoes.