Tabi – Protective Footwear

Tabi is traditional socks like slippers that date back to the 15th century. This is still categorized as part of the Samurai Suit which is ankle-high. This Samurai Armor has separated the big toes from the smaller toes.

These are also worn by men and women. Men wear blue or black Tabi when traveling. Jika-Tabi is worn by farmers, construction workers, gardeners, and other workmen.

These are made of heavy materials like rubber. These also resemble boots and are categorized as boots more than socks.

However, for the purpose of being a part of Samurai Armor, these peculiar slippers were issued by Japanese personnel as an option other than wearing the traditional leather boots that reach to the ankles.

Prisoners of war or POWs were also given Tabi to wear during the time that they were imprisoned.

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Tabi In Japan

These slippers or boots became more popular during World War II when these were worn by Japanese infantrymen. Some of their enemies recall seeing the split toed imprint in the mud of Guadalcanal.

Outside of Japan, these were referred to as boots. These are heavy-duty footwear. There are some versions that use Kanji on the soles of these footwear.

Falconer’s Tabi has stitches on the soles to strengthen this foot part. This is also known as Takajo-Tabi. This can be worn in direct contact with the ground.

This is the inspiration for Jika-Tabi. These can be used as weapons. Even SNLF or Special Naval Landing Forces were using these by 1938.

Birth of Jikatabi in the Modern World

The commercialize form of Tabi was invented in the 1920s and was credited to Tokujiro Ishibashi. He is connected with the Asahi Corporation which is not connected to the beverage company of that name.

This was the company later known for its rubber tire business. These became the choice for Japanese soldiers to wear during combat when Japan became involved with the Greater East Asia War from 1941 to 1945.

Samuraiantiqueworld [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Past forward to the peaceful period in Japan, these slippers are attracting attention from the fashion world. These are among trendsetters who find this traditional Japanese footwear unique.

However, as time goes by, Westerners lose interest in these footwear. The love affair for this footwear has been re-discovered. These are often referred to as Ninja shoes. However, these were never used by Ninjas.

These were invented after the Ninja era. However, fashion trends do come and go and the transition from Jikatabi to Western footwear is a natural progression.

Ordinary working men enjoyed the feel of wearing the Tabi because it grips the sole allowing the wearer to become agile than using Western work shoes.

Wearing these footwear feels like walking barefoot. It places less strain on the feet. Times are changing that it is not only blue-collar workers who wear this footwear.

When looking at the structure of the foot, the most important part is the big toe to gain balance. This footwear was inspired by this precept. Wearing this slipper allows greater freedom to move.

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