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Getting a Haircut in Japan

It’s April now and in Japan, that marks a start of the new fiscal year and also a start of the new school year. New employees also often start their work in April. With all these new starts, everyone wants to give a nice first impression. For many, part of that is going to hairdresser and getting their hair in condition. I myself am one of those many.

Being an University student, for me April means the start of a new semester. This is partly the reason why I recently visited a hairdresser in Japan first time in my life – another half of the reason is that I just couldn’t stand my hair anymore. I don’t have much experience on using hair salons as I usually cut my hair by myself but after this recent experience, it feels quite intriguing to go to hairdresser from now on too. It was a very fun and relaxing experience, and even though I think Japanese salons resemble those of other countries, I will write write some information about Japanese hair salons for you today. I hope you will find it useful if you ever consider getting your hair cut in Japan!

English-speaking salon, Assort in Gaienmae, Tokyo
Here you see the hair salon I visited called Assort. I loved the interior, simple and cool!

Why Japanese salons are so nice?

  • There’s a saying that Japan has more beauty salons than convenience stores. Looking at some data, this is perfectly true as the number of beauty salons was 4~7 times higher than the number of convenience stores (the numbers changed a bit depending on the data). You probably could be expecting quality with that level of competition!
  • If you have ever heard of what kind of training all professional hair stylists have to go through in Japan, you know how skillful they have to be just to graduate the school.
  • In many places, you won’t only get your hair cut and conditioned, you will also get a nice massage! When I got my hair shampooed, the staff member gave me an incredible head massage with no extra cost.
  • Even in cheaper places, you will be treated amazingly. When I had my hair washed, I was constantly asked if I’m okay and my neck doesn’t hurt. I also received some candies and drinks.
  • You can easily get your hair cut for free! Check below for more information on how you can do this.

What should I know before going to hairdresser in Japan?

First of all, you will need some Japanese if you want to be able to actually convey the salon staff how you want your hair cut. Below you can find some words you ought to know if you are going to a hair dresser who doesn’t speak English.

a cut = カット (katto)
dying hair/hair dye, color = カラー (karaa)
a perm = パーマ (paama)
a blow dry = ブロー (buroo)
a fringe = 前髪 (maegami)
a layer cut = レイヤーカット (reiyaakatto)
a dry cut = ドライカット (doraikatto)
shampoo = シャンプー (shanpuu)
setting your hair = ヘアセット (heasetto)
short = ショート (short), 短い (mijikai)
long = ロング (long), 長い (nagai)

For those who have confidence in learning longer sentences, here are some that might be useful:

Cut my hair like in this photo = この写真みたいに切ってください (kono shashin mitaini kitte kudasai)
Very useful when your Japanese skills are limited but when you still want to get your hair cut exactly as you want it to be. You should remember though that it’s possible that particular style won’t look good on you and it might not look as you expected it to look on you.

Don’t cut too much = あまり切らないでください (amari kiranaide kudasai)
If you want to make sure you won’t lose too much hair, you can play safe by saying this sentence. My boyfriend often gets his hair cut in a place where the old woman cutting likes to cut a lot no matter what you tell her though. That place is extremely cheap though so can’t really complain.

I’ll leave it up to you = お任せします(omakase shimasu)
As a contrary to the sentence above, if you really trust the person styling your hair (or just want to be surprised), you can take up on a challenge and use this sentence. You should remember though that according to some surveys conducted among hair dressers, customers saying this sentence apparently aren’t very popular. The reason is that even though those customers give the hairdresser a permission to whatever he/she wants, they often complain afterwards. If you use this sentence, be ready for anything.

Hair products at Assort Hair Salon in Tokyo

How about the prices?

Depending on the salon, your bill might be anything from around 1000yen (10 bucks) to something extremely expensive. According to surveys, the average used by Japanese women is 3000-5000yen once in 3 months, men using a little less but cutting their hair more often (once or twice in 2 months).

If you want to get your hair in shape with a small budget, I suggest sites like Hot Pepper Beauty for searching salons. There’s no English version of the site so you have to know some Japanese but it’s pretty easy to use. You can search for not only hair salons but also for other beauty salons like cosmetologists or manicurists.

Hot Pepper Beauty website used for searching and booking hair salons in Japan
In this example of Hot Pepper Beauty, I set the area to Shibuya and the maximum price for cut & color to 4000 yen in total. I also added some other conditions and got around 20 results.

You can choose the region by the city, train line or by just adding all the places that are okay for you. After that you can add other search conditions like price range, time or pretty much anything. I have long hair so I always add the condition ロング料金なし – no extra money taken for long hair! If you are looking for specific treatment or something, that’s also possible to set in search conditions.

What I really love about Hot pepper beauty are the coupons! ♥ I recently got my hair cut at a salon called Assort. They normally take around 8000-9000yen for a set of a cut, shampoo, treatment, blow dry & styling but using the coupon for first-timers and some points I had saved up at Hot Pepper Beauty, I ended up paying only 3000yen for the 1,5 hours I spent at the salon. I even got a massage even though it wasn’t included in the package! Pretty amazing.

Also, you can actually cut your hair almost or entirely free if you become a cut model! There are many sites for this as it’s getting more and more popular among Japanese lately.

  • Cutmo, promises you a free cut and set up if you become a cut model.
  • Cuts, offers a possibility to search the salons even before registering. Prices seem to vary from 0yen to 500yen and more.
  • Cuttaloca, takes 500yen for a cut. Around 300 salons in the whole Japan participating.
  • Minimo, advertises a cut from 0yen.
  • Nutts, also offers a cut used for the salon’s advertising or training starting from 0yen.

These are very nice if you want to get your hair cut cheaply but you should be careful as you don’t have the right to say much on your hair style. Depending on your stylist, he might listen to you – or he might not. Also, you might get your hair cut by a trainee or a complete beginner and there are times when the result might not be satisfying. You should also always contact the salons ahead as some might not be looking foreigners as their models.

What should I do if I can’t speak Japanese?

Even though the English skills of the hair stylists might often be limited, there are some salons that offer English services. These salons often tend to be of the pricier end though so you might not get your hair cut that cheaply in these places.

English-speaking hair salon, Assort in Gaienmae, Tokyo
I cut my hair at Assort in Gaienmae. I can speak Japanese but I was intimidated of having my hair cut by someone not so used to blond, fragile hair so I looked for English-speaking foreigner friendly salons.

However, even if you can’t speak Japanese, you can go for pretty much any salon – just print out the vocabulary list above and hope for the best! In case you can speak Japanese, it doesn’t really matter where you go expect if you want your hair dyed. Many hair salons are only accustomed in dying Japanese hair and trying to dye fine, European hair for example might lead to some unwanted results. So in case you are going have your hair dyed, you might be better off with English speaking hair salons as they’re often more used to hair quality of other countries.

Do you have any experience on Japanese hair salons – or are you considering ever getting your hair cut in Japan? 🙂


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