Japan's 'waddling ducks' urged to wear high heels
FEMINISTS, look away! The fashion police in Japan want to "empower" women by persuading them to wear high heels, insisting the country's "kimono culture" has led to many women having poor posture.
The Japan High Heel Association (JHA) is calling on women across the country to trade sensible shoes for a pair of stilettos, insisting that standing tall will give them "confidence" and improve their gait.
"Japanese women walk like ducks," said JHA managing director "Madame" Yumiko at her plush Tokyo salon.
"They waddle along, pigeon-toed, with their bottoms sticking out as if they're bursting to use the toilet," she said.
The all-female organisation charges thousands of dollars for etiquette lessons, including classes where women are taught to walk correctly, particularly in high heels.
Critics have branded the idea sexist and laughable, given that women are still battling a patriarchal culture that once expected them to pace three steps behind men.
Yet, the "walking etiquette classes" are proving to be popular. At JHA, students pay 400,000 yen (S$5,100) for a six-month course. So far, 4,000 have taken part while similar lessons and schools are popping up nationwide.
The 48-year-old former ballerina blames the country's sartorial heritage for the posture problem.
"Chinese or Korean ladies don't have these problems," she said. "It's a result of Japan's kimono culture and shuffling about in straw sandals. It's ingrained in the way Japanese walk."
It has only been since the 1980s that stilettos have become a fashion staple in Japan.
This "call to heels" comes at a time when the West is experiencing a feminist fightback against diktats on how women should dress.
Last month, more than 100,000 British people petitioned Parliament in Britain, calling for a change to an outdated dress-code law that allowed employers to require women to wear high heels in the workplace.
But Ms Yumiko argues wearing heels will help "Japanese women be more confident".
Prominent Japanese social commentator Mitsuko Shimomura dismissed the idea as "nonsense".
She said: "There's no relationship between wearing high heels and women's power.
"It sounds crazy."
But heels have a role to play in modern courtship, said JHA director Tomoko Kubota, 45.
"If women look sexier, it will help Japanese men buck up," she explained.
A 2014 study by scientists from France's Universite de Bretagne-Sud supports this view. The group conducted social experiments that showed men behave more positively towards high-heeled women.
Similarly, students at JHA believe they will benefit.
"We learn how to move in a kimono and how to bow correctly, but not how to walk (in heels)," said hypnotherapist Takako Watanabe, 46, after a walking lesson.
"It might help us catch a hunky guy," she added.