Women in Japan are often required to wear heels for job hunting and office work, but the #KuToo movement wants to squash that part of the dress code.

In Japan, job hunting pretty much requires formal dress. Applying for entry-level jobs at large companies means actually visiting their recruiting offices and headquarters for information seminars and interviews, and in order to convey how serious you’ll take the job, you’re expected to dress up.

Both men and women are supposed to wear suits, though women can opt out of a necktie. What they generally can’t get out of, though, is wearing heels. Granted, showing up in club-worthy stilettos is a faux pas, but flats are usually frowned upon for ladies, since they’ve traditionally been viewed as too casual, and so mid-level pumps have become the de facto dress code for female job hunters in Japan.

But remember how we said applicants have to make the rounds to various offices as they look for employment? In Japan, getting around city centers involves taking trains, often standing on crowded carriages as you head into office districts, then walking to the interview site. Heels aren’t a particularly good match for all that time on your feet, as Japanese Twitter user @udondon1234 shows with these gruesome photos.


@udondon1234, who’s currently job hunting in Osaka, recently went to an interview that was a five-minute walk from Shin Osaka Station. That was long enough for a bright red patch of blood to spread from a freshly opened wound on the back of her ankle, where her pumps were digging into her skin. The cut was severe enough that blood even poured down the outside of the shoe, leaving a dried cake of hemoglobin.

“I want them to get rid of pumps for job hunting,” tweeted @udondon1234. “If you have bunions or a high instep, the shoe will rub against your skin and bite into it,” she lamented, going on to say “Pumps are the modern equivalent of foot-binding. It’s a mistake to force women to wear them. They say it’s proper manners to wear them? It’s a medical injury!”

As part of her cry to end the practice, @udondon1234 also tweeted the hashtag #KuToo. A corrupted rendering of kutsu, the Japanese word for “shoes,” it also borrows from the #MeToo anti-sexual harassment movement. #KuToo has been showing up in Japanese social media with increasing frequency, as it’s not just job hunters who have to deal with painful footwear. The Japanese business year, when recent college graduates start working, begins in just a few weeks, and many office dress codes require female employees to wear heels during working hours.

@udondon1234 isn’t the only one to share photographic evidence of the dangers of pumps with the #KuToo hashtag…


…and one artist put the movement’s goal into a succinct two-panel manga.

A few commenters pointed out that, while they felt sympathy for @udondon1234’s injury, such a dramatic amount of blood loss could very well be a sign that the shoes she’s wearing are the wrong size for her feet, or perhaps that even within the pumps category, she’s chosen a pair that’s a severe mismatch for her skeletal structure. Others recommended purchasing foot pads or carrying her pumps in her bag and wearing a different pair of more comfortable shoes on her way to the interview venue, then changing just before she arrives.

It’s also worth pointing out that it’s not uncommon for larger Japanese offices to include a sort of locker room for female employees where they can keep personal effects, and some women leave their formal work shoes there while commuting in more sensible shoes. Still, it’s hard to imagine that having your feet in pain for any amount of time is good for work performance and productivity, and hopefully @udondon1234, who also says its unfair to force men to wear uncomfortable dress shoes at work, can find a job at a company with an enlightened dress code that allows her to wear flats.

Source: Twitter/@udondon1234 via Hachima Kiko
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where finding out that Asics makes dress shoes in Japan was a life-changing experience for him.