A petition protesting against the near-obligatory pressure Japanese women come under to wear high heels to work has been handed to a Government official.

Signed by almost 20,000 women, the #KuToo campaign, which has attracted headlines around the world, started with a single tweet by Yumi Ishikawa.

The writer and actress who also works part-time at a funeral parlour, tweeted her frustration about the dress code, which stipulates that women have to wear high heels. The original tweet received over 67,000 likes and nearly 30,000 retweets.

Ishikawa then launched the #KuToo movement - the campaign is a play on the words from the Japanese word "kutsu" - meaning shoes - and "kutsuu" - meaning "pain" - and quickly won support from nearly 19,000 people online.

Speaking on Monday after her meeting with labour ministry officials, she told reporters: "Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.''

She added that the official who met her ''was a woman and sympathetic to our petition... and told us that this is the first time voices of this kind reached the ministry.

A campaign poster for #KuToo which has garnered almost 20,000 signatures from Japanese women. Credit: Change.org

Campaigners say the attitude towards women wearing heels in Japan is akin to modern day foot-binding and reflects the deep-rooted misogyny within Japanese culture.

Receptionist Nicola Thorp launched a similar campaign in Britain after being sent home for not wearing heels. Credit: PA

A similar petition against high heels at work was signed by more than 150,000 people in the UK in support of the receptionist Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from work in May 2016 for wearing flat shoes.

It was her first day as a temporary receptionist for City accountancy firm PwC and she refused to wear heels with a height of between two to four inches.

The case led to an inquiry by a committee of MPs and lifted the lid on many other instances in the UK where women have been required to wear heels when it was either dangerous or inappropriate.

However, the Government refused to change the law, claiming the Equality Act 2010 was adequate to deal with discrimination.