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Setta

Setta have been used from the Jokyo (1684~1688) and Genroku (1688~1704) eras. Previously, setta made in the Kyoto-Osaka area had been widely valued, but after a type called kirimawashi setta were created in Edo, they became popular enough to be called (Edo setta) (Kyo-bokuri) and these basically served as the original model for modern setta. Footwear only with heel protectors became setta.

Ishiwari setta (stone breaking sandals), made by a leather tabi craftsman in Otsu, are thought to be the first with metal ends attached. Zori heels were easily damaged, and the first heel protectors were made by cutting and attaching cow hide to the heels. Later, these transformed into setta as the bottoms became entirely covered in leather, and at this point, they became footwear for everyday use. Modern style metal heel protectors were later used to increase durability.
One theory on the creation of setta is that they began when Sen no Rikyu, who disliked the fact that bottom-less zori would get soaked through if you wore them through the snow, stacked up multiple zori and attached leather bottoms to them (Sansai Zue). However, it is unclear and there are many divergent theories as contemporary literature from Edo claims that they were not created by Sen no Rikyu but rather began from (sechida zori) as they are properly called sechida and there is no way that Rikyu would have worn leather, which was shunned at tea ceremonies, and from the fact that the word (sechida zori) often appeared in (Ryuteihikki), wherein the word setta was used as a phonetic equivalent, as well as in contemporary haikai poetry (Kobaisenku).

In addition, it was said the bamboo sheath was innately sacred, so it was used for headwear but not for footwear. During the Edo period, most people did not believe that Sen no Rikyu was the first as it used to be forbidden to attach leather to zori long ago in the Yoshino period (1334~1393). And it is said that, at the beginning of the Genroku era, there were many craftsmen known as shirikireshi (leather-sole cobblers) and settashi (sandal cobblers). Setta made in Edo were called jisetta to differentiate them from kudari-setta made in the Kyoto-Osaka area. At the end of the Jokyo era (1684~1688) in the Edo period, a finishing method called kirimawashi, which was similar to the original form of modern setta, was established. It is recorded in (Goninonna) and (Koshokunidaiotoko) by Saikaku that these took all of Edo by storm as they had a better appearance than both jisetta and kudari-setta as the tops featured blanched bamboo sheath with no dark spots and were durably constructed. In this way, setta combine the characteristics of leather soles and the advantages of bamboo sheath.

From around this time, people had already began to prefer setta that made jingling noises. It was also from around this time that blanched long-jointed bamboo without any dark spots began to be used to weave setta. Also, in regard to the kanji character used to represent the “ta” portion of the word setta, literary documents from this time went from using a character meaning “step” to a character meaning “wear.”

Kesetta

Setta were popular from the Jokyo and Genroku eras in the Edo period, and there existed two main types: Edo-style and Kyoto-Osaka style. Both types were made by attaching leather to bamboo sheath covers. There also existed a style of fur setta that were made by similarly attaching leather to the bottoms, using animal fur on the covers and even making the straps directly out of fur. It is written that a setta maker in Shinmachi began selling these from around the Kyoho era, and an ancient document given to Oda Nobunaga by Uesugi Kenshin contains the passage, “…wearing fur sandals.” Due to the popularity of setta, bamboo sheath zori covered in fur were known as kesetta (fur-covered leather-soled sandals). These were not footwear for the upper class but rather used mainly for children, even though it seems that initially adults worn them as well.

Norimono setta

These are said to be from the Kanbun era (1661~1673) in the Edo period. These high quality footwear were created by attaching leather soles to upper portions covered in satin damask cloth. They were a special type of setta that were worn by the wives of feudal lords. At the time, they were a luxurious form of setta worn by aristocratic women.

Extravagant setta

People in Edo during the Bunka-bunsei era incorporated a number of luxurious elements into setta. Some examples featured rattan-weave covers edged all the way around with gold-copper alloy and brass inlay work depicting peonies, dragons, etc. on the bottoms. It is said that, when aboard boats, people would remove their setta and lay them bottoms-up in order to vie whose inlay work was most beautiful. The extravagance got so out of hand that Mizuno Tadakuni, member of shogun’s council of elders at the time, issued an order to Toyama Saemonnojo, the town magistrate, forbidding the general public from wearing extravagant setta.

Setta sellers in Edo

Setta were the most widely and traditionally worn sandal type during the Edo period. Even famous shops like Miyata and Echigoya in Terifuricho in Edo, which were well-known at the end of the Edo period, advertised themselves as sellers of kudari-setta (setta made in Kyoto-Osaka area). Footwear shops in Edo, where the products were sold, openly advertised themselves this way to draw in customers because the majority of footwear in the Edo period were manufactured in the Kyoto-Osaka area and because kudari-setta preceded the advent of fashionable setta.