The Secret of Japanese Girls´ Bowlegs

Japanese girls walk strangely is what I hear a lot. Many want to fix it and there are many goods for that. But why they walk like this?...

The other day, a friend took out a little piece of paper out of his bag and asked me what it was.

It was this, secret ring 1secret ring

Ashi-yubi Shiikuretto Ringu (Toe secret ring).

As far as I could see was they are rings you can put on your big toes and somehow it works to lose weight.

So I´ve researched it.


By wearing these ring, it helps you to keep the weight in the centre of the body. Because if you have bowlegs or your pelvis is distorted, your balance is spread outside.

secret ring 2

Just wearing these, just fix the posture, not only you can have beautiful straight legs but also you can lose weight. It sounds too simple but I think it´s quite logic.


There are many pages and videos talking about Japanese girls´ walking. Someone even has left a comment saying "They walk like as if they are holding a wee". Unfortunately, it´s true. I cannot say that they walk elegantly.



Here are come example of how Japanese girls walk. Some I think it´s extreme but most of them walk like this.





O legsApparently 90% of Japanese women are bow-legged. My father trained me how to walk. He would walk right behind me and check how I walked. If my toes going to inside, he would groan at me. If my knees were bent as I walked, he would do the same. I was only 11 or 12 and it was so annoying walking with my Dad, in line instead of walking side by side like an ideal father and a daughter. But hey, now I walk quite manly, so it might be OK.


So how this odd way of walking started?

Japanese women´s bowlegs has been acknowledged as “womanly”. a Japanese folklorist, Kunio Yanagida (柳田邦男) had written in his book published in 1924 that  bowlegs were “known as beautiful woman´s attraction” .  He used the word “kyoutai (嬌態)” means sensual atittude towards men. That is to say, bowlegs was the way of expressing of femininity. 


Below there are two illustrations of Hisara Tanaka (田中比左良) who was one of the popular cartoonist before the war in Japan. He had drawn many women in that period.

hisara 2



tensokuWhat you can see from these two illustration is, while normal women in kimono are drawn with bandy-legs, Gensha´s feet are drawn exaggeratedly bow-legged. To demonstrate femininity, traditionally women have been forced to keep unpractical pose and movement. China´s  foot binding was the typical example.

In this sense, bow legs represent Japanese culture and therefore, we can say that the body is also a part of the culture. (reference:


But something I don´t understand. This unpopular way of walking of Japanese girls eventually causes bowlegs which no one likes to have. There are many exercises and treatment goods like "Secret Ring" to fix it. Also this way of walking deformed the pelvis bone and as a consequence, the muscle and the body fat grows un-wanted way.



Maybe it comes from our lifestyle. Japanese kids often sit like this. This way of sitting is called "Onnanoko-zuwari (女の子座り/ girls way of sitting)". I´ve heard that this way, the pelvis opens and causes of bowlegs.



Other possibility is seiza (正座/ sitting on the heels). This is a very traditional way of sitting in Japan. As my family didn´t like me sitting like this, only the occasion I did was at school as a punishment. Sometimes when we forgot to do homework or to bring a textbook, the teachers made us sit seiza at the back of the classroom on the floor during the class. After 5 minutes, my legs go numb, then by the time the class finished, I couldn´t even feel my feet. I either fell over or simply couldn´t stand up suffering from pins and needles…

I have to protest that seiza maybe a part of beautiful tradition but nothing is good about it. It´s painful and deforms girls´ legs.

To be beautiful isn´t so easy, eh.



More Japanese behaviour

More Japanese costum

Herbivorous boys

The concept of kindness

Women agenda

How do you say my wife in Japanese

Japanese mums and obento

Iyashi-kei girl

Service overtime work

Japanese girls look all the same


  1. susan January 23, 2014 at 18:43 #

    Where can I purchase the toe ring?

  2. budoka December 24, 2013 at 05:29 #

    I as a man personally find bow-legged women attractive.The woman walking in the shared video was a highly exaggerated case.

    • juju.kurihara December 24, 2013 at 13:07 #

      Hello Budoka san

      Yes, the girl in the video is an extreme case although I have some friends like her. Normally you see more in elder generations.

  3. Cheryl Mason-Middleton (中町茶流子) November 3, 2011 at 17:24 #

    Being an American woman, even I sat seiza all of my life and even spent many hours sitting onnanokozuwari. We didn’t call sitting this way by the Japanese names, it was just “sitting on the floor.” My family had many Japanese elements without even knowing it. I didn’t notice this until I began to learn about Japan and found a kind of home in the culture.

    I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder and comfort is what you are used to doing. It has had an effect on my posture and on the way my legs are shaped, but it doesn’t bother me. I still enjoy sitting this way and feel sorry for my fellow aikido students who find it difficult to sit this way for even a minute of two. If I walk strangely, well, I wear long skirts anyway and nobody notices.

    Fun article. I enjoyed it very much.


    • juju.kurihara November 4, 2011 at 14:29 #

      Sounds like your orientation to Japan has been built in your childhood. You are meant to like Japan, hahaha.

      Seiza as it´s written 正座, it was the “right way” of sitting when Japanese people lived in traditional Japanese houses, and the way of walking was developed for women who wore kimono. Still we keep that way of living in a way as a part of our life. But sure, nowadays women wear shorts or mini skirt and legs are more revealed, so bowlegs are quite noticeable. You know how important the apprearance canbe for Japanese?

      I think it´s great that you can do seiza. I can´t. I can´t even do onnanoko zuwari for a long time although I love sitting on the floor. I usually sit my legs crossed or stretch out but sitting on the floor is the most comfortable way of sitting for me than sitting on the sofa.

      I´m glad you like the article. Iromegane wo yorosiku!


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