Nisoku no Waraji (二足の草鞋)

I learnt a new Japanese phrase at work the other day: Nisoku no Waraji (二足の草鞋).

My job is split into two very separate parts, and I was really busy with both, when my colleague told me I was wearing two pairs of flip-flops.

Huh? As far as I remembered, I was wearing one pair of sensible work shoes and no flip-flops at all. I looked down to check, and thankfully discovered I was right.

“Come again?”

“Nisoku no Waraji”, my colleague said. “It means you’re wearing two pairs of shoes, because you have two jobs…”

“I see! In English, we might say “wearing two hats”. So in Japanese it’s shoes?”

My colleague went on to explain that waraji are a kind of Japanese sandal made out of straw – a bit like flip-flops, only slightly less practical, one would imagine.

Buddha's sandals

I thought it was interesting that in English we might say that someone wears two hats when they have two jobs or two sets of responsibilities, but in Japanese the phrase is to wear two pairs of traditional Japanese sandals. I wonder if this phrase exists in other languages and if they use other items? Wearing two coats, maybe? Or two shirts? I’d love to know!

4 thoughts on “Nisoku no Waraji (二足の草鞋)

  1. “I thought it was interesting that in English we might say that someone wears two hats when they have two jobs or two sets of responsibilities, but in Japanese the phrase is to wear two pairs of traditional Japanese sandals.”

    Especially when one considers that the Japanese have been a “shoe” wearing people for only about a century. Hats in Europe and the U.S. often used to be a cue to someone’s trade, but as traditional Japanese sandals are rather nondescript footwear . . .

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    • I think I read somewhere that there used to be different ways totie your sandals depending on whether you were a samurai, or peasant or whatever. I wonder if that comes into it at all?

      Like

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