Hairdressing

  • Peter Barakan

    Host

    Born in London in 1951, Peter earned a degree in Japanese from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). An expert on diverse forms of popular music, Peter is also a well-known TV and radio presenter. He has lived in Japan for 40 years and has a deep understanding of the language and culture.

  • Matt Alt

    Reporter

    Born in Washington D.C. in 1973, Matt's interest in Japan was kindled by robot toys in his childhood. He worked as a translator for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before co-founding a company that produces English versions of Japanese comics and video games. He also writes extensively about cultural trends including yokai, ninja, emoji, and more.

  • Katsuyoshi Osawa

    Main guest

    An experienced barber himself, for over 30 years Osawa has taught aspiring hair stylists at a trade school in Tokyo that specializes in hairdressing.

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December 22, 2016

Hairdressing

*You will leave the NHK website.

As inbound tourism to Japan from neighboring Asian countries and regions continues to swell, the lavish spending habits of affluent visitors eager to shop for exclusive brands and goods difficult to obtain closer to home are in the spotlight.

However, not all of the conspicuous consumption is centered around tangible items. One survey from February 2015 placed Japanese beauty salons and cosmetics shops near the top of a list of the destinations Asian women aged 20–49 were enthusiastic about visiting.

But surely you can get a haircut just about anywhere? That may well be the case, but as the burgeoning popularity of Japanese salons suggests, all haircuts are not created equal, and Japan’s salons have far more to offer than a mere short back and sides or a perm.

Legally, Japanese salons fall into two categories, with the stylists themselves requiring distinct qualifications. First are traditional barbershops. These serve mainly men and the services include a shave with a cut-throat razor. Though such establishments did decline from the late 1990s, the recent popularity of a more traditional masculine aesthetic has sparked something of a resurgence.

Most young people these days frequent unisex hair salons, once mainly the preserve of women. Japan’s salons are set apart by attentive service that begins with a consultation on each customer's preferences, hair type and concerns.

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Guest Katsuyoshi Osawa and his former student Mitsuhiro Saito show Peter the basics of Japanese shampooing.

This is typically followed by a lengthy shampooing session and head-spa with creamy lathering treatments, again selected to match each customer’s hair and scalp needs. At some establishments aroma oils and warm towels add to a truly relaxing experience.

Customers’ all-round comfort is further enhanced with pleasing décor, a range of drinks and magazines, and state-of-the-art hairdressing equipment, including luxurious reclining seats with built-in shampoo basins.

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Japan’s lucrative beauty market drives innovation in related equipment such as these chairs.

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The customer’s eyes and nose are covered with a towel to protect from splashes, and to aid relaxation.

The attention to detail may extend to little plastic hoods for the ears and protection for the nape of the neck when dyeing, to ensure that no color should stray onto the surrounding skin.

More salons are appearing that can cater to the hair types of customers from different ethnic backgrounds, and that offer multilingual service. So next time you’re in Japan, why not pop into a salon to get the royal treatment yourself?

The country’s world-leading salons have certainly moved on considerably since the shaved-pate and topknot chonmage style of the samurai, but who are we to stop you from getting a chonmage for yourself? It could be the ultimate way to one-up your man-bun-wearing chums.

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Matt gets a scalp massage at a highly distinctive barbershop.

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Aspiring hair stylists get to grips with a traditional Japanese hairdo.

 



*You will leave the NHK website.