Home > Anxiety, Bitching, Japan, Scary, Strange, Summer, Worry > The Time I Got My Hair Cut in Japan

The Time I Got My Hair Cut in Japan


When I lived in Japan on 2006, my hair quickly grew out of control. The extreme humidity of summer (and fall, winter, and spring – it was like living in a goddamn jungle) and lack of A/C did a number on my head. What was normally wavy or slightly curly turned into a frizzy mass that was impossible to brush. The thick locks trapped moisture like a sponge, so it felt like I was wearing a bag of uncomfortably warm water on the crown of my head.

Though I had been warned about Japanese haircuts as a Westerner, I decided to risk it. Anything had to be better than feeling like Medusa, if her hair snakes had been drunk, bloated, and leaking. Though my small town lacked even a single restaurant, it managed to somehow boast three barbers. I went to the nearest one and pointed to my head, and the proprietor immediately looked as if I had asked him to cut off my leg. His panic was palpable, but I had come too far to back out now.

His barber shop had only a single chair, and it appeared to be in the garage of his house. His wife and toddler came out every so often to ask him about household chores (“Is this laundry clean or dirty?”, “Can you give little Daigo-kun a bath later?”, etc.). The hairdresser first led me over to the sink, where he proceeded to turn on a bizarre hair washing machine that had MECHANICAL ARMS, since this is Japan and therefore robots are necessary in all situations. It was like something out of Bugs Bunny, and I was immediately terrified. The thing got its metal fingers tangled in my thick hair, and I smelled burning as the contraption whirred to a stop. This was the extent of my shampoo.

I had brought a photo of the cut I wanted, since I figured a picture spoke better than my limited Japanese. Not that I couldn’t hold a conversation in the language, but I had never learned the intricacies of asking for a haircut. What was the word for “layers”? A trim? Split ends? I had not a clue. The picture was simple, and involved a cut that was straight across with nothing fancy.

The barber took to my mane with a manic intensity, thinning it within an inch of its life and making me look like an irate poodle. His toddler came out and played amongst my hair clippings, tossing them into the air and giggling. I gazed with growing horror as my hair got shorter and shorter, the thinning scissors moving at an insane blur. This was a man on a mission, and he was sweating with exertion (and also because it was 90 degrees).

I later stumbled outside in a daze, fingering my hair as if it were just a bad wig. The next day, all my students told me in no uncertain terms that I looked terrible. More specifically, the girls looked aghast and asked me, “What have you done?!” The boys just laughed at me.

Man, junior high students are dicks. And I never got my hair cut in Japan again.

  1. cdv
    August 6, 2012 at 11:21 am


    • August 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Of my hair then? I didn’t take any! I specifically was trying not to document the horror of that hair cut.

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