KuToo: The Japanese movement to ban workplace high heel requirements

Yumi Ishikawa

More than 24,000 people in Japan have signed a petition to ban office dress codes which force women to wear high heels to work. The KuToo campaign – a play on words from the Japanese kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu, meaning pain – was launched by the actor and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa and quickly won support online.

Wearing high heels is considered to be near-obligatory when job hunting or working at many Japanese companies.

“I’m hoping to get rid of the custom that someday women have to wear heels and pumps at work,” said Ishikawa.

The #KuToo movement in Japan follows a similar campaign in the UK in 2016, where more than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for a ban on company dress codes which force women to wear heels at work.

In recent years, campaigns such as #MeToo have brought Japan’s gender inequality problems into the spotlight. Japan is ranked at 110 out of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum’s index measuring the degree of gender equality.

The country ranks bottom among the G7 countries for gender equality, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge to empower working women through a policy called “womenomics.”