The Japanese way

I identify a hair salon from the blue, red and white rotating spiral that's always present not far away on a wall or as a pole on the sidewalk. An example follows (it wasn't the may subject of the pic but it's the best I have); it's from 上大岡 (Kamiôoka).
Hair Salon Sakeragi
There's one lighted spiral a bit higher than man-height above a paper one on the wall. There's also a large poster at the top of the building with another spiral plus the name of the salon (サケラギ / Sakeragi), the basic price and the floor on which to find the salon: 2nd floor (that is, by european standards, 1st floor). Finally, more lighted spirals at the windows.

Next paragraphs relate one of my experiences at a hair salon next to the exit of 屏風浦駅 (Byôbugaura Eki), Byôbugaura Station.

I come in and wait a little bit that one of the four seats is ready for me. A hairdresser comes to me and I manage to explain that I'd like a haircut and, since I have that nasty-looking goatee, a shave. Do I want a shampoo? Sure. For once I'm given the choice, but still do as I'm used to.

I'm lead to a seat that could pass for a couch, from which I'll never move till the end. I knew I wouldn't be able to explain how I'd want the cut made, thus I had come prepared with a picture of myself. But the picture doesn't show the back of my head! The hairdresser is not unprepared either and produces a bord with nine drawings of head's backs so I can make my choice.

The hairdresser sprays my hair a little bit with water, just a little, and off we go (hey, I didn't get my shampoo, did I?). It seems he's not toot used to cut hair off of 外国人 (gaikokujin)[1], so we try to discuss a little, though it seems it's not usual practice.

The cut's done and now is surprise time: the hairdresser pulls a kind of closet door open and makes appear... a bassin! A plastic bassin, the edge of which has a depression in which my neck would fit perfectly, if I were to lean forward enough. Which I'm asked to do.
To get a head-shower with the torso bent forward is rather bizarre for me: I'm used to keep the face dry when I go to the hairdresser. Here the water flows onto my face and my position (torso bent over my knees) is not very pleasant, if not as uncomfortable as I dreaded. The obvious gain is the room: if the salon was to host a dedicated hairwashing spot, it would have to double in size...
Shampoo's done, my face is dried gently with a smooth towel; somehow it's refreshing.

I'm up again and expect the seat's backrest to be inclined the other way. Not just yet: first I get a quick shoulders massage. Hmm that felt good, after a hard work day. I am just a little bit anxious though, I've never been shaved by anybody but me.

Now I lie on my back and the hairdresser puts a wet, lukewarm on my face in order to soften the skin. After a while the towel is gone and my face covered with cream instead. From chin to ears... to eyes? The hairdresses is coming with the sharp razor and brings it closer to... in-between my eyes‽ Quick reaction needed! Please don't touch that part, thank you very much.
The rest of the shave goes very smoothly, my 2-blades razor and shaky hand can't produce that good a shave.

Once on the street, I pass the hand in my hair so short cuts fall.


A Kyoto hairdresser's day in six minutes! Images are from Hair Program Nakagawa's webcam and were shot february 11th, 2004. I assembled them in a video (using the divx5 codec). The website gives links to hairdressers' webcams in Japan, Germany, the US and Spain.


[1]外国人 (gaikokujin): foreigner. Curiously, foreigners tend to mostly know and use 外人 (gaijin), which is more familiar.