Okazu by Gary Hongo

Rubbah Slippahs
Do you have any shoes that you would like to donate to charity? For the past 9 months, we’ve been putting the word out to our members and visitors to rid their closets of shoes no longer needed. There is one exception: No flip-flops. You may call them go aheads, zoris, slippers, thongs or flip flops but they’re all the same. They make that distinct sound (pit pat) when walking with them as their soles meet the underside of your heels, hence the term flip-flop. However, growing up in Hawaii we called them “rubbah slippahs” (rather than rubber slippers) because they were simply slippers made of rubber.

We wore the “rubbah slippahs” all the time even when playing baseball or basketball on the asphalt courts. Occasionally we’d have to call “time out” when the strap going down between the big toe and the index toe would pull out of the hole in the sole of the “slippah.” No problem – we’d just loop a string to the strap and pull it through the hole and continue playing. In those days, “rubbah slippahs” were only of one color – black. You’d wear them so often that depressions on the top of the soles were formed by the heels of your feet. Either the depression would make a “puka” or hole in the sole or the strap would break. By that time, you would need a new “rubbah slippah” because your feet would outgrow the “slippah.”

Families would have a sign posted by the front door which read, “Take Off Your Slippers Before You Go In” instead of “Please Remove Your Shoes Before Entering.” You could tell who were home by looking at the sizes of the “rubbah slippahs” at the front door. Because they were very light and could float on water, you would have to be careful when going to the beach because a sudden wave could take the “rubbah slippah” from the sand and out to deep water. After swimming, you would put your slippahs on and walk on the sand to your car, avoiding getting sand on your wet feet. Because we wore them in the sun so often, we had “permanent” bands of light colored skin on top of our feet caused by the straps.

My black “rubbah slipper” is a thing of the past. It has evolved into popular footwear worn in many countries. Although its shape is the same, you can get them in many vibrant colors, patterns and logos. Some stores let you make your special flip-flop, choosing a particular color sole and matching it with different colored straps. Of course, discounting inflation, my cheap “rubbah slippah” is no longer cheap anymore but still affordable. I still wear them but only in the summertime because it’s just too cold outside in the winter! So, continue to get ahead by wearing your “go aheads.”
6996 Ontario Rd., San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
(805) 595-2625
Res. Minister: Rev. Naomi Seijo Nakano
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