Trying to fit in with life in Japan is physically as well as mentally a challenge. The mental problems begin in the head; the physical problems start with the feet.
Ordinary shoe stores do not quite have my shoe size, 28.5 (UK 10). Two Septembers ago, I bought two pairs of size 28 (UK9.5). They were the biggest in the shop – but were still fractionally too small.
Reasoning the shoes would grow into me, I bought them. I was right, the shoes did grow into me. My toes now point sideways.
Today, I made my second successive September visit to the Big Shoe shop in Gotanda. A short walk from the station, set alongside the train tracks, the Big B store has a big collection, from sandals to walking shoes to work shoes.
I bought a pair of denim coloured leather shoes, in the smallest size they had. Typically, they are fractionally too big. I don`t seem to fit anywhere.
Keeping with tradition, I bought them anyway, I just hope the extra space will encourage my misshapen toes to grow forward again.
The shop manager convinced me to buy some bosui (waterproofing) spray. I intend to keep with tradition by using it once, losing it amongst the junk in my rabbit hutch room, stumble across it next year, and forgetting what it is, use it as deodorant.
In truth, I was not really convinced to buy the spray, I did not really understand what the Big Shoe manager was saying. While I can talk confidently in Japanese about kushikatsu fillings or lunch options in Nishiogikubo, the language of shoe maintenance, like the lingo of motorcycle repair and dating, is mostly, as Alan Partridge put it, just a noise to me. Tuning in to these noises is as hard as finding footwear that fits.