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What is a Geta?

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  • Written By: Celeste Heiter
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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A geta is a traditional-style Japanese thong sandal worn by both women and men. There are many variations on the geta sandal—however, a classic geta is composed of a wooden base with two risers on the bottom and a padded thong secured to the base in three places. Geta may be worn with traditional Japanese garments or with informal Western-style clothing.

There are three basic parts to a geta. The wooden base is called the “dai,” which means “stand.” The risers on the sole of the dai are called “ha,” which means “teeth.” The thong is called the “hanao,” which means “thong” or “strap.”

Geta are typically carved from a single block of wood that includes both the dai and the ha. Three holes for attaching the hanao are drilled into the dai: one at the front and two at the back. The traditional wood for geta is kiri, the lightweight hardwood of the paulownia tree indigenous to Southeast Asia. The wood may be unfinished or it may be stained or lacquered. A layer of rubber or vinyl may be attached to the soles to protect the wood from wear.

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The hanao is traditionally made of padded cotton or silk cloth, which is often printed with Japanese-style patterns. Hanao may also be made of leather or vinyl. The outer material is sewn into a tube and filled with a thick cord made of hemp, cotton or synthetic materials. The cords of the hanao are attached to the wooden dai by passing them through the holes and securing them on the underside with special knots. The hanao thong is worn between the first and second toes.

Geta vary widely in both shape and size. The dai may be square or rounded at the corners. The teeth may be very tall, especially for wearing in wet or snowy weather. Some geta have a large, single, V-shaped tooth, and some modern designs have thick, contoured soles instead of teeth.

Geta are traditionally worn with the informal cotton robes called “yukata” and should not be confused with the more formal zori, which are worn with kimono. According to tradition, they are also worn by novice sumo wrestlers and geisha in training. Geta make a clacking sound on a hard walking surface, a noise that many consider nostalgic. Wooden sushi boards with risers are also called geta because of their resemblance to the sandals.

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