Google+ Sandra's Stories: Big foot attacks mens changerooms

Monday, 21 January 2013

Big foot attacks mens changerooms

My gym in Tokyo takes convenience to a whole new level. Every time I show up I get freshly washed gym wear, shoes, and socks. It really beats lugging a heavy gym bag on the crowded trains every day. There’s just one problem… my average sized Aussie feet are considered to be ridiculously large in Japan. With size 26.5 cm feet, I can’t fit into ladies shoes. What’s a Big Foot to do?

The answer is simple: wear mens shoes. But in reality, nothing is simple when you’re a totally conspicuous and communication-challenged foreigner like me.

At my gym the mens shoes are kept in an alcove outside the mens changeroom. The men can help themselves. It’s an honesty system and it actually works. Amazingly, no one steals the unsupervised brand-name shoes.

So, all I had to do was sneak into the mens alcove and grab the shoes…

The first time there was no problem. It was early in the morning and there weren’t many members around. I just walked straight in and took the shoes. When I finished my workout I put them back into the men’s return slot. No one saw anything. I survived a day in Japan without getting busted breaking any rules.

Unfortunately, the next time I went to the gym, there were more people hanging around. I managed to grab the shoes from the men’s alcove without getting caught, but when I went to put the shoes back, things got complicated. Just as I entered the men’s alcove, the changeroom door sprung open and a man came out. He looked very unimpressed when he saw me trespassing. He told me (in Japanese) that this was the men’s area, and that the ladies changeroom was on the other side.


Now I take Japanese lessons three times a week, and I’m supposedly at an intermediate level, but for the life of me, I am unable to explain myself in situations like this. I managed to mumble out “I have big feet. These are mens shoes,” but my protests just convinced the man that I was extremely confused and needed assistance. The man escorted me over to the ladies section with my gigantic shoes in hand. Since there was nothing else for it, I went inside the ladies changeroom and hid until I was sure he had left the area.

A few minutes later when the coast was clear I headed back to the men’s alcove. When I got inside, I saw the man was sitting next to the shoe rack. On seeing me, he jumped up triumphantly. He explained for the second time that this was the men’s area, and escorted me out. Finally, my language skills kicked in. I spluttered “But these are men’s shoes. I want to return them.”

I held the shoes out for the man to inspect. He stared at the shoes for a moment before taking them out of my hands. He tried to smother the disgust on his face that he had to touch my sweaty post-workout shoes. I guess being a shoe vigilante isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Without saying another word, he put my shoes into the mens shoe return slot for me.

I didn’t see him again, but I guess after that the man must have reported my crimes to reception. He didn’t know my name but the description “big footed foreign girl” must have sufficed. The next time I went to the gym I was prepared to be extra slick and elude any further shoe vigilantes. However, when the receptionist scanned my membership card, she gasped in surprise and asked me to wait. She then ducked down and searched under the counter for something. When she came up, I saw that she was holding a fresh pair of mens 26.5cm shoes. They’d been specially set aside for me.

They must have put a note on my file that I was a trouble maker and would need shoes given to me directly to prevent any further deviant behaviour. Now whenever I go to the gym, my shoes are waiting at reception for me. So, no more breaking into the men’s alcove, and no more having to confess my shameful big footed-secret to strange men. There’s nothing like Japanese service!