Take a look at our popular back-in-stock Bensan Sandals designed by Bench. They are a contemporary take on the plastic sandals widely used in Japan during the post-war showa era. Traditionally, these unpretentious slippers were used as daily indoor and outdoor slippers in homes, restaurants, hotels, and hospitals.
“Bensan” is a truncated word for benjyo-sandaru, a slightly vulgar word that literally means “bathroom-sandals.” You might find them the next time you come across (now very rare) retro showa-era inns or bars in Japan. Open the door to the restroom, but watch your step – you might have to leave your indoor slippers and step down to the tiled ground, the official place where you do business. There they are —bensan sandals, just to be used in that room.
The sandals have also been used at home, a pair set on an apartment balcony to water plants or dry laundered clothes. I bid you no evil, but you might see them on hospital patients doing overnight stays
These are the kind of bensan’s you'd find in an old-school shoe store. Dark reddish browns are the most common, and cool colors are said to be popular during the summer.
According to Bensan collectors (and yes, they exist!) their No. 1 Classic & Worthy is the model "Dunhill," manufactured by the same company Bench Bensan’s are made by. (Hint: the ones with holes in the middle columns!)
Sometimes it takes a set of fresh eyes by the likes of Hosei Fujiwara, creative director of Bench, to realize and re-celebrate the value of these “common goods.” There is a reason behind why these unceremonious slip-ons have been widely used for decades: for their comfort, durabililty and anti-bacterial function. The size and positioning of air pockets in footwear are determined to provide maximum comfort to the wearer. They're even designed to prevent pebbles from landing on your feet.
Fujisawa took it up a notch to work with Japan’s long-standing maker of quality bensan sandals, Nishibe Chemical, in Nara. The company has been renowned for producing high-quality bensan sandals for over 40 years, with skills unmatched by others abroad.
Bensan by Bench is a true collaboration between visionary designers and traditional craftsmen. Bathroom footwear has been upgraded to runway-worthy status, with a variety of styles and color palettes now available. The best thing is that they are unisex and versatile, and may be worn barefoot or with thick socks, indoors or out in the mud, in the summer or fall.
Written by Shizuka Kusayanagi of @newskoolmom