Japanese Versus European Feet

I remember looking through a Japanese ballroom dancing magazine during one of my lessons and seeing an interesting comparison of foreign and Japanese feet. Whether the article discussed how the different foot shapes affected shoe size or posture I can’t remember, but I found the examples used for this foot comparison quite fascinating. Here’s my attempt to recreate that long-lost comparison.

The Thinker versus a sumo wrestler

First you’ve got the characters. Representing “Team Europe” is Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.

Though this statue is widely known as “The Thinker,” Rodin first called it The Poet. It was part of a commission by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris to create a huge gate based on the epic poem The Divine Comedy of Dante. [Source: Wikipedia]

In the Japanese corner, we’ve got sumo wrestlers in a traditional woodblock print (ukiyoe).

Sumo prints from the 18th and 19th century prove the popularity of the sport in the past. Among the Japanese woodblock print artists are few that made no prints with subjects of sumo wrestlers. Ukiyo-e was a commercial art and was meant to sell. In the 18th and 19th century it was more the publisher who decided about the subjects than the artist. He gave the commissions, risked his money and therefore tended to publish popular themes. [Source: Artelino]

Let’s take a closer a look at these feet:

Comparison of European and Japanese feet

I’m no expert on tarsals and metatarsals, but you can see that the European foot is longer, flatter, less arched, and perhaps has longer toes than the Japanese foot. The Japanese foot is seemingly much thicker than its European counterpart.

Of course, we shouldn’t draw any conclusions by comparing feet from 19th century statues and woodblock prints. Instead, we need a real life example! Fortunately, my family agreed to participate in this scientific study (ahem) and remove their socks for the camera. In the pictures below, there are three feet. One is my very own British foot, one is my wife’s Japanese foot, and one is the foot of our Japanese-British, three-month-old baby, Rikuto. The question is, which foot belongs to who? Post your guesses in the comments!

Real life foot comparison

Now that you’ve seen some real feet, maybe the only conclusion we can draw is that foot shape is not based on nationality, but on whether you can do sumo or not. I mean, we already know that Rikuto is just a little sumo baby!

7 comments

  1. ジェイソン (Jason)

    Hmm … Reiko’s foot looks like “A”. My foot looks a bit like “B”. And there are no little feet yet in this house.

    So I guess that would mean that Mami is A, you’re B and Rikuto is C :)

    • Nick Ramsay

      That is correct, sir! So there must be a visible difference between foreign and Japanese feet after all! Unless of course it’s a gender issue.

  2. Mike

    Im going to guess that A is Rikuto’s foot, B is Mami’s foot, and C is Nick’s foot… Ok so now that I won, what do I win? Hurry up and send my prize! By the way I haven’t cheated by looking at the previous comments.