Born for the Toilet, Reborn for The Runway.
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. These unpretentious footwear were traditionally used as daily indoor/outdoor slippers for home, 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) old-school 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 —bensans 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. Bid you no evil, but you might see them on hospital patients doing overnight stays.
A lineup of washed traditional bensan’s. They may not look so chic but are definitely smart and convenient, with anti-bacterial function and being so easy to wash.
These are the classic bensan’s you might see in an old-school shoe store. The dark reddish browns are the most common, and cool colors are supposedly 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. (Psssst... The ones with the holes pictured in the middle above!)
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 placement of air pockets in the footwear are calculated to maximize the wearer's comfort, even so that pebbles are hard to reach the 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 is renowned for producing high quality bensan sandals for over 40 years, with skills unmatched by others abroad.
Left to right: Bench Bensan-D Tassel in Black, Customized Bensan Sandals from Bench Japan, and the classic "Dunhill" model by Nishibe Chemical.
Bensan by Bench is a true collaboration between the visionary designers and the traditional craftsmen. Now available in various styles and color palettes, this common bathroom footwear has been elevated worthy for a walk on the runway. The best part is that they are unisex and versatile, can be worn in the summer or fall, bare feet or paired with thick socks, indoors or out in the muck.
Written by Shizuka Kusayanagi of @newskoolmom