Thursday, May 2, 2013

'Do you own an itch?' Or, How to get a hair cut in Japan.

The thing I most mourned when I found out we were moving to Japan was the loss of my hairstylist. I can FaceTime and Skype with family and friends, but a hairstylist? Irreplaceable. Well... and Target. I miss Target. 

I went months in Misawa without getting a haircut; waiting for the next trip home to look a little less like a homeless chick. When we moved to Yokosuka I knew that we would be closer to salons that were, ahem, up to my standards (read: I am a haircut snob) and I was thrilled. But nervous. Because my Japanese repertoire is lacking... which is putting in mildly. 

So if you ever find yourself living in a foreign land please heed this one tidbit of advice: When you see someone with cute hair, immediately befriend them and ask them where they get it cut. 

Because getting your hair cut on a US Military base (when you are a self proclaimed haircut snob, like myself) is not acceptable. 

I am so thrilled to have a regular stylist. Who speaks a little English. And works in a salon a short train ride away from our home. 

And what a treat it is. 

I was greeted at the door with smiles and bows. There is chatter, all in Japanese, and a lot of gesturing and nodding. The first time I went I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I came armed with my iPhone loaded with pictures of Anne Hathaway and Gwyneth Paltrow circa 'Sliding Doors' (which, by the way, is a movie that I am pretty sure was seen only by me). After scrolling through pictures, again with lots of smiles and nods, I was ushered over to the hair washing station. 

And this is where it gets real. Haircuts in Japan are like a day at the spa. The chair to the hair washing station is fully automated and reclines you almost completely flat. The adorable and hip hair washing guy places a plush throw on my lap and something that looks like a maxi pad across my eyes. Do not be frightened. Embrace the eye maxi. When I get my hair washed in a States, my inner dialogue sounds something like this:

'Dum dee dee, getting my hair washed. Oh. Oh man. I can see straight up his/her nose. Oh boy. I don't want to see that. Wait. If I can see up their nose, then THEY can see up MY nose. *sniff* OK, I think I am clear. OK, I will just stare at that ceiling tile. Crap. Water splashed into my eye. I will just close them. Wait. Now it looks like I enjoying this shampooing a little too much. OK, deal with the water in the eyes and the booger sightings, KEEP EYES OPEN.`

You get the idea.

But with the eye maxi pad, you avoid all that awkwardness. The adorable shampoo guy (who is wearing skinny jeans and platform shoes. I love Japan) leans down and asks 'Do you own an itch?' I am not sure what this means, so I say 'I am fine, thank you!' I am immediately even more grateful for the eye maxi pad that is now hiding my confused face. 

And now the cut. The gal who was recommended to me is awesome. I observed the other stylists, who were all doing an amazing job as well. Extreme precision and attention to detail. Friendly smiles and attempts at small talk. Despite the language barrier I end up with the exact hair cut I wanted. 

This is where, if in the States, they would style your hair and send you on your way. But in Japan you get a second shampooing, complete with eye maxi, and... the most incredible head/neck/shoulder massage. That's right. The adorable shampoo guy rubs you up good after conditioning your freshly cut locks. The only problem, from what I can tell, is that without the eye maxi on (you are escorted back to the chair for the massage) you run into the same question of 'Do I close my eyes or leave them open?' I chose to look down and my feet in the mirror. And I tried not to moan like Monica getting a massage from Phoebe on 'Friends'.

A quick blow dry and I was done. Off to pay. And, what is even better than the massage, the maxi, the perfect cut... NO TIPPING IN JAPAN! So no awkward moment, wondering if it is enough/too much. No tiny envelope to stuff all your spare ones into because the salon in the States won't let you add a tip to your credit card (what IS THAT, people?!). More Japanese is chattered, bowing, smiling, and opening the door and off I went.  

It is a wonderfully different experience. I encourage anyone who lives in Japan to step outside their comfort zone and indulge in this little treat. 

And then take an awkward selfie, showcasing your style. And then, maybe blog about it. 

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