A Foreigner’s First Haircut in Japan

As I sit here watching Japanese infomercials I thought that I should write about my first (unaccompanied) haircut in Japan.

We have lived here almost 3 months and I needed my hair cut in January. The on base salon was booked and I didn’t know where else to go. My friend Itsuka took me to DOT, the place where she gets her hair cut in Fussa. She translated for me and got me a temporary membership card.

I had a picture of a past haircut on my phone so I showed the stylist and let her go to work.

Be prepared- razor/thinning is popular here and there was much more hair on the floor than I expected. The rest is kind of fuzzy because I was so nervous.

The stylist seemed excited about my natural curls and wanted to style it that way so I didn’t see it straight until the next day when I straightened it myself.

My nape hair was longer than I liked so I took office scissors to it. You would think I knew better since this summer I played hairstylist when I got frustrated with my sideswept bangs and cut them off, making them blunt. Not my best idea, but I had them shaped up by my stylist in Oklahoma and they eventually grew back out.

It’s mid-February now and it was time to get my hair cut since it was growing out strangely because of my most recent scissor attack.

Itsuka couldn’t go with me because she had prior obligations for the next few weekends, but she was kind enough to make me an appointment online and added a note to blow my hair straight.

I took a printed picture this time of a Japanese cut and went to my appointment.

While I do know some Japanese I don’t know any hair salon vocabulary so I was just as nervous as I was the first time I went. Doki doki!

I handed my paper membership card to the person behind the counter and was given a key for a locker to hang my jacket and purse. I was the first person that morning so I was seen right away.

We discussed the picture in simple Japanese and he began. First he sprayed my hair with water and then started cutting. He then blew my hair dry and I told him I liked it. He said in English that he wasn’t finished, so I felt pretty silly.

Then he got down on his knees and focused intently on making my nape hair even (did I mention that I can’t cut a straight line?)

He cut, and cut, and cut, then he blew it dry (again). I said I liked it (again) and almost put my scarf on. He took my scarf from my hands and gestured to the sinks. Apparently I wasn’t finished.

He put a towel in my lap and a young lady put a gauze-like fabric on my face and began washing my hair with water only. I was guided back to the chair and both she and the male stylist started co-drying my hair with their fingers.

If you have never had 2 different people finger dry your hair at the same time you are missing out. It was relaxing and I tried to enjoy the feeling rather than think about how it compared to the service we get in the states.


The picture I took with me to the salon

He blew my hair dry a third time, which surprised me. In America you get it styled once and that’s it.

He took such care to re-shape and razor out the remaining bulk as he styled my hair. I even felt confident enough to ask for the nape hair to be a little shorter, and he complied.

In the end it was a bit shorter than I orginally wanted, but it ended up being the perfect hair cut experience overall.

The best part? It cost 1890 yen (roughly less than $20 USD) without tip because tipping is not customary here.

Try to be brave and go to a Japanese stylist, even if you don’t know much or any of the language.

Take a picture of the style you want, point to it and say “kore kudasi,” or you can even show with your finger how much you want cut off.

*A kind Japanese reader pointed out something I should have. I was taught that “kore kudasi” is not grammatically correct, but that if you’re foreign the Japanese people usually know what you mean. However, the correct phrase is “kore ni shite kudasi.” Thank you for reminding me to say that my previous phrase wasn’t grammatically correct, and for telling me the correct phrase, Marshall!

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