Yumi Ishikawa, an actress and model, launched a national conversation about sexist workplace rules in Japan requiring women to wear high heels when she posted a tweet in January with the hashtag #KuToo. The term is a play on the Japanese words “kutsu” (shoe) and “kutsuu” (pain), while also giving a nod to the #MeToo movement.

Women in Japan are often required to wear high heels to work, as part of strict dress codes imposed by employers. In her tweet, Ishikawa sought to bring attention to these sexist policies that see some women forced to endure blisters and back pain.

In her January 24 tweet, Ishikawa wrote, "I'd like to one day get rid of the practice that requires women to wear heels at work." She described being forced to stop working as a hotel receptionist because of the foot pain resulting from wearing high heels every day.

Ishikawa didn’t think her tweet would go viral. It has since been retweeted more than 30,000 times, and women began sharing photos of their swollen feet using the hashtag #KuToo.

"Fighter," by artist Rika Asakawa

One Twitter user posted photos of her bloody blisters and wrote that she would "love to not have to wear high heels while looking for a job... Look at the state I'm in after a five-minute walk from Shinosaka: all bloody!"

Encouraged by the wave of support, Ishikawa launched a change.org petition asking Japan’s minister for health, labour and welfare to stop companies from dictating the types of shoes that their female employees are allowed to wear in the workplace. The petition currently has more than 17,000 signatures.

Ishikawa's tweet announcing the change.org petition

This story was written by Lena Huet.