Clothing restrictions in Japan highlight systemic sexism

Japanese women in office, sales, and customer-engaging jobs face sexist dress-codes every single day. While men do not have restrictions, women suffer in uncomfortable clothing for the sake of “welcoming appearances”. 

According to a survey done by The Mainichi, 22.6%, Japanese workers face gender biased dress-codes every day..

A woman named Hei-ran said in an interview with Savvy Tokyo that her boss would bring her on business trips because they “need a woman to entertain the clients”. These policies convey the idea that women only receive validation based on their appearance.

Corporations and the practices they enact often harm rather than improve their bottom line. 

According to Savvy Tokyo, high heel regulations actually hinder worker productivity. Rules that make workers more inefficient don’t benefit anyone. The company loses valuable time when they could resolve the issue by letting women wear flat-dress shoes and glasses. 

Yumi Ishiwaka, an actress, founded the #Kutoo movement (accessible on to protest Japanese high heel regulations after her feet bled from wearing heels. The name “KuToo”, a triple pun in itself, plays on the Japanese word for shoes (kutsu) and pain (kutsuu), as well as referencing the #MeToo movement.

“The government does not seem to be interested in making a working environment friendly to all people,” said Ishiwaka.

Along with minor discomforts like blisters and irritated eyes, long-term health problems come into play. According to Will Humble, the Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association, high heels cause the Achilles tendon to shrink over time – placing people at a higher risk of injury. 

“They [men] don’t even wear heels; they don’t know how painful it is and they’re forcing us to wear them? That’s like a huge no, no,” said Fumi, another woman interviewed by Savvy Tokyo.

Sexist dress codes illuminate a bigger problem. According to Savvy Tokyo, women only make up 5% of managerial positions in Japan.

This issue cannot be resolved with just one voice. Posting about this inequity on social media and raising awareness about these dress codes, as well as their systemic causes, could improve women’s lives, not just in Japan, but around the world.