Walk This Way: Japanese Heels Auto-Plant Seeds

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Addressing nuclear fallout never looked so painfully stylish. A Japanese shoe designer is developing sky-high heels that automatically deposit seeds in the ground as the wearer walks in them. The shoes are part of a project to help rebuild Fukushima.

Designer Masaya Kushino's imaginative shoes usually sport wild, Dada-esque heels. He's adorned them with horns, fake ponytails, peacock feathers and ornate gold framing. So it wasn't a big stretch to add a component for distributing seeds.

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Kushino's "Healing Fukushima (Nanohana Heels)" were conceptualized in partnership with Japanese artist-designer Sputniko!, who came up with the project idea. Fukushima remains contaminated with nuclear waste following the earthquake and tsunami that struck the power plant there early last year. Sputniko! visited temporary housing there a number of times and learned about efforts to plant rapeseed in the region.

Some varieties of rapeseed, known in Japan as "nanohana," remove the radionucleotides caesium-137 and strontium-90 from the soil. The plant stores them in its stalk and seed coat, but not its seeds, which can be processed into industrial lubricants and cooking oil. Scientists in Belarus made the discovery after the Chernobyl disaster, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The mechanical heels, which are still a work in progress, sink back when the wearer walks. Pressure from the movement causes a tube within the heel to emerge. The compartment containing rapeseeds turns and, similar to a BB gun, a single seed emerges from the end of the tube. Lifting the foot starts the process again:

Despite the heels' apparent functionality, the towering work of art is intended to be a catalyst for discussion about rebuilding Fukushima rather than a practical farming tool. This summer the artists say they plan to release a new video about their work.

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Based on his website's gallery, it looks like Kushino also designs accessories. Maybe he can come up with gloves so novice gardeners like me can automatically plant seeds simply by dipping fingertips into potting soil. Proceeds could go to the rapeseed replanting effort in Japan.

Photo: "Healing Fukushima (Nanohana Heels)" by Masaya Kushino. Credit: Takuya Shima.

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