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Are Japanese beauty salons the best in the world?


Beauty in Japan is serious business. This might be the explanation for why “beauty salon” in Japanese shares a kanji character with both “graduate school” and “hospital.”* The treatment you’re liable to get at a Japanese beauty salon often far outpaces that of Western salons; typically you can expect a thorough scalp massage and drink service at the very least, and shoulder and hand massages and in-depth style counseling are not uncommon either.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Here is a list of differences between Japanese and Western hair salons:

The expert shampoo service

Getting a thorough shampooing – and yes, spell check assures us that is a word – is pretty common across the board, but what sets Japanese hair salons apart is the ample attention paid to your scalp during your visit. Sure, that sounds weird, but you’ll be too appreciative to be embarrassed as your Japanese stylist spends many minutes massaging your scalp and identifying problem areas. Usually, your stylist will ask you if any areas are especially itchy or sensitive and investigate for you, all while expertly massaging and scrubbing, sending tingles down your spine the likes of which you only thought possible in the bedroom.

The Coupons

Since, as we’ve established, beauty is serious business in Japan, it goes without saying that it’s also a cutthroat business. For you, the consumer, this is nothing but a good thing; anywhere you go in Tokyo you’ll see smiling 20-somethings handing out fliers and tissues, often associated with hair and beauty salons. Look closely and you’ll see that many of the fliers contain special offers, from heavy discounts for first-time visitors to completely free service if that person on the street happens to think you’d make a good hair model.

Drink Service

At pretty much any decent Japanese hair salon you go to, drink service is part of the deal. Sure, you’re paying more for the privilege of getting your hair cut than at Western establishments, but in exchange you can enjoy a wide variety of drinks. Most of the time, this is limited to a few tea options and coffee, but really fancy places have been known to offer champagne and other classy beverages free of charge.

The “Cape”

Most western salons have a selection of protective drapes that they wrap around you and clasp at the throat. Your hands are pretty much stuck underneath the drape and if you want to, say, respond to a cell phone message, you have to awkwardly stick your hands out of the sides of the drape, all the while exposing your legs and hips to a relentless onslaught of hair clumps falling from your head. In Japan, they offer a type of cape with convenient arm holes that let you freely gesticulate and answer cell phone messages to your heart’s content without ever exposing your clothing to that hard-to-get-rid-of freshly cut hair.

The Crazily Specific Questions

“How many centimeters do you want it?”

“Are you planning on using hair wax every day or just sometimes?”

“Do you want to be able to put the front of your hair down when you feel like it, or do you want it up all the time?”

Not all of the differences are for the better. In an effort to give the most personalized service they can, Japanese stylists will ask a range of bizarre and super specific questions that might grate on you and make you want to scream, “I have no idea! You’re the expert!”

Your humble writer, as a man, usually walks into a styling joint with a simple request: “Make it shorter.” So it can be baffling and annoying when your stylist seems to be second guessing his/her every styling decision, asking increasingly specific questions about how you want your hair to look when you really just want them to make it look cool. A lot of guys walk into a salon looking like they just rolled out of a dumpster and want the stylist to make months of growth and on-and-off washing look like you actually give a damn about what you look like. We don’t care how many centimeters it ends up being, okay?

So, have you ever been to a Japanese beauty salon before? What are the differences in your mind? What are the pros and cons of Japanese salons? Let us know in the comments.

*“Beauty salon” (biyouin, 美容院), shares its final character with “graduate school” (daigakuin, 大学院) and “hospital” (byouin, 病院).

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Tokyo Area Residents Shocked by Miracle Salon’s Flyer -- Hair chalk: Fun for a night and no trouble Monday morning -- To Dye or Not To Dye?

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I would hope so considering the prices they charge.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I don't know about beauty salons but my neighborhood barber is fantastic. During the summer, they were giving me cold shampoo and scalp massages. I just wish my hair grew faster so I could back for a haircut more often.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Dont know. But I certainly do miss my 700 yen haircut, where you by the ticket for what you want from the machine. Great deal and great service for the price. A bit 'of the old shave on the back of the neck and a 1 minute massage included.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't like them. Two to three hours of my life I can't get back for a whole lot of money.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

The salons here are just another example of Japan does best: overkill. Sure they're nice, but very time-consuming and very expensive. Yes the results are great, but at the end of the day, you have to admit it could have been accomplished without all the (pricey) bells and whistles.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Highest Service / Higest Prices

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Expensive and time-consuming but hey, you get what you pay for!

"omotenashi"! :)

6 ( +6 / -0 )

and otsurinashi!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Considering the cars the owners invariably drive, they must be the most profitable.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I don't like the small towel on my face while they shampoo. They say it's so the water or soap doesn't splash in my eyes or ruin my makeup, but it makes me feel like I can't breathe. They also usually fuss too much, cutting what seems like just a single hair at a time. Takes so long and makes me so antsy I want to scream. Always nice staff, but...let me go!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Nope! They leave my hair so dry from over shampooing and using hot water, p,us i don't like the hot towel they out behind your nape,nits like I feel my blood raising to an temperature ready to explode. Takes a lot of time as well for a simple cut..another thing, they never get how You want to be cut either..I always come out a disaster!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Sure, you’re paying more for the privilege of getting your hair cut than at Western establishments, but in exchange you can enjoy a wide variety of drinks.

This I don't get, I'm coming for a hair cut not a drink. Anyway, many western places offer you a cup of tea or coffee, particularly more upmarket places that charge the same prices.

Are rocketnew on a mission to prove that everything in the world that is Japanese is best. If the Japanese really believed their own propaganda they wouldn't have to scream it incessantly.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

“Beauty salon” (biyouin, 美容院), shares its final character with “graduate school” (daigakuin, 大学院) and “hospital” (byouin, 病院).

It also shares that final character with "orphanage" (kojiin, 孤児院), "old people's home" (yoroin, 養老院) and "reform school" (shonenin, 少年院), though I'm not sure what that signifies.

I have a pal who is a hairdresser with her own salon. When I go we make an afternoon of it - shampoo, massage, conditioner, treatment, styling, drinks, bikkies, chinwagging, all for the cost of a normal cut-and-blow-dry. I love it.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Based on the schooling that hair stylists must go through, most of them have very good technique. I used to dish out 4000 yen to get my hair cut just the way I wanted but I also enjoyed the friendly chat as well as massage / drinks / etc. Now I just use my trusty "barikan" and get it done for free (have to pay for housing loan, save for kids' education and all that)

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Thank god, I'm bald, so I can't relate, although I will say, when I did have hair, which was 5 years ago, I had micro-braids and my hair was way passed my shoulders, it would take about 5 hours on average. I was very skeptic at first if I can get that ethnic look, I found a salon about 2 hour drive from my home, they were really great kind, played great music, gave me drinks, snacks and because my hair is...was wavy, it made braiding easier for them, so they gave me a discount and if anyone knows anything about braids or dreads is that, it is very expensive ¥10,000 (and that's with the discount they gave me) and time consuming. But it was worth it. The guys deserved it, braiding takes time, especially Micro braids. Sometimes, I would nap while they would braid my hair, since it takes more than 5 hours, why not? These guys made me feel comfortable, they had this comfortable Japanese gangsta street style, tats, dickies, but were equally as good some of the salons I used to go to back in L.A. I miss those guys always looked forward to seeing them, sad, but now I'm hairless, so them days be over.


What on Earth is a bikkie??

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You don't have to speak hardly any Japanese to get a haircut at a hair salon in Japan, all you need to say is "mijikaku" and, if you want to be polite, "onegaishimasu," and they'll trim you right up!

bass - It's a biscuit!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When I go we make an afternoon of it ...all for the cost of a normal cut-and-blow-dry. I love it.

I wonder if she loves it... that time could be spent serving other customers...

Hope you give her a big tip!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

First of all you get what you pay for and here in Japan you are paying for GREAT service and a good quality. Secondly the prices are not that much higher then a quality hairsalong in New York City (Manhattan etc), LA. London or even any larger city. I got a haircut in London the other day and it was double what I pay here but I was not treated as well as I am in Japan.

Thirdly, If you want a 700 yen hair cut you are not going for the Quality of the service, which is fine, but if you are like me, wanting quality and good service, Japan is it!!!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I've had haircuts in a few countries, and Japan is the cheapest place I've been. Decent service, too - heck, they even trim my (disgusting) ear-hair!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Yeah, they're pretty good, although they do take quite a while, I like the shampoo massages and back massages they usually throw in.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


0 ( +0 / -0 )

the karmin hair tools leave your hair looking like you just came straight out of the salon! I have the karmin g3 salon pro blow dryer and it makes my hair shine!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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