Thursday, May 05, 2005


The Man went to a wake today, for the father of a friend.

Getting ready was a real trial. First he had to find his black suit. Then, when he found it, he discovered that the moths had found it, too. After patching the jacket inexpertly, he tried to put the pants on, and they refused to button.

"Fatty!" I said, laughing, and he looked aghast. Then his face cleared. "I've had this suit for twenty five years," he informed me. This did not surprise me as much as it should have.

(He is a beanpole, but he used to be an even skinnier beanpole.)

He had to find another pair of black trousers, and found some he hadn't worn in a while that did fit, but they didn't match the jacket. In the end we decided that he could carry a non-matching black jacket over his arm and nobody would notice (or at least they'd be polite enough not to mention it), and he fished out his black belt and his 100-yen black tie. I assured him he looked acceptable. (He didn't really, but there wasn't much point in telling him so when he'd run out of options.) Then we had the problem of shoes.

The Man has big feet, and I mean REALLY big feet, especially for Japan. Here you measure shoe size in centimetres, and his are 29-30 cm. Most shoe shops only go up to 26 cm. Some have 27 cm, or even 28. But finding comfortable shoes that are 29 or 30 cm is almost impossible.

This means that The Man wears any shoes he has until they are worn out. As he walks a lot, this means that he has a perennial problem with shoes. About a year ago, after he'd been walking around in leaking shoes for a few months, he found one pair of size 29 cm brown shoes in a department store. These have been his shoes for the last year or so, aside from a pair of sneakers.

The problem is that you can't wear brown shoes with black trousers.

We went downstairs and checked the shoe cupboard. The Man very rarely throws shoes out even if they're leaking, just in case. We found an old black pair, and since it isn't raining today decided they'd be all right. He polished them up, put them on, I pronounced them acceptable (just), and he left.

Two minutes later he was back, laughing himself witless. His shoes were flapping around and shedding bits all over the place. He flapped back through in the front gate leaving a trail of shoe parts behind him. By the time he got into the house he was walking on his socks. Only the uppers were intact.

I have never SEEN anything so silly.


I collected all the shoe bits off the road (and took the photo) while The Man started hunting around in the shoe cupboard in case there was another pair. He found some, a bit ratty looking, but they polished up well enough that they'll pass. (Well, not really, but there wasn't any choice.)

The Man needs a new black suit, and black shoes. Wakes and funerals don't generally give you enough warning to go out and acquire the necessary outfit, and the black outfit is compulsory for every formal occasion in Japan. But in this country of short people with short limbs and small feet The Man is a freak and a shopping nightmare. He has long arms, long legs, and MONSTER feet. I'm hoping that the current embarrassment will be motivation enough to to renew his shoe hunting efforts, and to get him out there and measured up for a suit. But he hates shopping for clothes (as do I) and particularly hates wearing formal clothes, so somehow I doubt it.

I expect the next formal occasion to be even more embarrassing.


Cheryl said...

I think that makes him a UK size eleven.
Sort out the Japanese import law (any restrictions on leather goods? Order them from any one of a trillion UK shoe shops, send them to me and I'll post them on!

tinyhands said...

Size 29-30 ~ UK 10.5-11.5 ~ US 11-12.
You're a lucky wife, although I don't know what the state of repair does to the old wives tale. ;)

kenju said...

I had the same problem with my Dad when Mom died. Daddy had not had a suit cleaned in probably 5 years (he was 83) and we had a hard time finding something acceptable for him to wear after I discovered that all his suits had large stains. Too bad we cannot foresee these things and get prepared early. It is esepcially bad when you don't live nearby - I was 330 miles away, so I couldn't check on him very often.

Badaunt said...

Cheryl: Leather goods get slammed with about a thousand percent tax when they're sent into the country. I don't know exactly how much, but a friend made the mistake of sending himself some sock-thingies with leather soles, worth about A$6, and ended up paying over ¥7000 for them. Actually he didn't pay it - he gave them up rather than fork out such an outrageous amount.

But I've heard of others who got lucky and their shoes got through without customs opening them. I suspect that might be less likely to happen these days, though - unless the tax situation has changed. We should probably check it out.

Tinyhands: I know the 'never trust a man with small feet' thing, but that doesn't seem to be the old wives' tale you're referring to. The Japanese old wives' tale is that men with big feet are stupid, which doesn't make me very lucky... This must be an old wives' tale I don't know.

Kenju: The Man doesn't have the excuse of being 83! (And I suppose if I were a good wife I'd take care of his suit, but I'm not, and I don't. Anyway he'd get annoyed if I tried it.)

tinyhands said...

The American version is something along the lines of big feet (or hands) = big "fun"

[I'm terrible about going to the post office, but I suppose Cheryl's offer applies to American goods via me as well.]

Paula said...

Hilarious story!

I've tagged you for the occupation meme, Badaunt.

E.P. said...


Badaunt said...

Tinyhands: The tax thing would still be the problem. Otherwise we'd just use mail order...

But big feet = big fun? I thought it was big NOSE. In fact, there's even a brand of condom marketed here called 'Big Boy' which has a picture of a very large gaijin nose on the box. :-)

Paula: Eek. Er, I mean... thanks!

Ms Mac said...

Now that's funny!

And you are so right about brown shoes and black trousers. Never ever go there!

Lizy said...

Very Funny!Good story..Black trousers and brown shoesgood match..r they?