Wearing high heels at work is ''necessary and reasonable'' for Japanese women, the country's labour minister has declared.

The controversial comments from Takumi Nemoto come just days after a petition with almost 20,000 signatures was handed in to government officials calling for a ban on bosses forcing female staff to wear them.

Mr Nemoto's views are a clear indicator that he will not support the #KuToo campaign which has attracted headlines around the world and started with a single tweet by actress and writer Yumi Ishikawa.

Responding to Mr Nemoto's words, Miss Ishikawa, 32, said: ''This is about gender discrimination.

“It’s the view that appearances are more important for women at work than for men.”

Like makeup on a face, a girl’s legs look better in heels, she added sarcastically, her feet encased in blue sneakers.

Yumi Ishikawa (R), close-up of her blue trainers (bottom L), image of high heels (top L). Credit: AP/PA

The petition protests against what Miss Ishikawa claims is the near-obligatory pressure Japanese women come under to wear high heels to work.

She is calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.

However, it appears her case has little merit with Mr Nemoto.

Speaking during a parliamentary committee session earlier this week, he was asked about the petition and said: ''It's generally accepted by society that (wearing high heels) is necessary and reasonable in workplaces,'' Japanese news agency Kyodo has reported.

Mr Nemoto was responding to Kanako Otsuji, a member of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, who said forcing women to wear high heels at work is "outdated."

While Ms Otsuji stressed that a dress code applied only to women amounts to harassment, Mr Nemoto said, "It's abuse of power if a worker with a hurt foot is forced (to wear high heels)."

Japanese health & labour minister Takumi Nemoto. Credit: AP

Miss Ishikawawho also works part-time at a funeral parlour, and in January this year she 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.

“I like my job right now but wearing pumps is really so hard,” one of her tweets said.

“Of course, if you want to wear them, please go ahead.”

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.

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

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.