A Step-by-Step Guide to Visiting a Hair Salon in Tokyo

Tokyo is swamped with approximately 20,000 hair salons, and it can be a pain in the behind to find “the one”. Here are a few do’s and don’t’s to make your quest for the perfect Japanese hair salon smoother. (This article was contributed by TOKYO BEAUTY STARS)

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1. How to find “the one”



You may be the adventurous type who prefers strolling around town, taking in the foreign sights and sounds, then spying a salon you fancy and walking in. There’s a risk that you may not be able to get an immediate booking accommodating your travel schedule, and it won’t help you find “the one”. But if you’re comfortable walking into a hair salon knowing full well that you, and they, may be lost in translation, we applaud you. It’s all part of the adventure. 

If you’d like to have a look at the reviews for some of the English-speaking hair salons and not just the promotional ads, have a look at online forums such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and SNS or ask your hotel concierge. You can also check out TOKYO BEAUTY STARS! This website offers a free booking service with 24/7 online support, exclusive discounts, specific hair styling or treatment packages, and no advance payment necessary.





Here’s another article that might help you find the place for you:

11 popular hair salons in tokyo that are tourist friendly too

2. How to make a reservation at “the one”


Photo by Derek A., Flickr 

Upon walking into a salon you like the look of, chances are you may have to wait, or worse yet, they may be full for the rest of the day or the week. In that case, you may be able to book for an appointment later in the day or week, depending on how popular/busy they are. If they are unavailable, and you are due to be on the plane home before they can book you in, remember that you have more than 20,000 options just in Tokyo. 

Some salons may advertise themselves as English speaking, but you may still experience difficulties when trying to make an appointment by telephone. Often Japanese people shy away from speaking English, so you may get better results if your hotel concierge books the chosen salon for you.

3. What to take with you when visiting “the one”



Many people “umm and ahh” about what to do with your hair when at the hairdresser’s. You ponder whether you should make a drastic change, surprising all of your friends and family or whether to go with the safe bet of doing something “boring”. Either way, it’s a good idea to bring a photo of a style/colour that you fancy, saving you valuable time, as well as avoiding being at the mercy of your hairdresser’s interpretation of your verbal requests. 

Even though you booked an English-speaking hair salon, you should download a translator app. It will help make things go smoothly if your stylist is weaker in English than expected. Apps vary depending on country, but Google Translate is pretty good for most languages. Otherwise, look through reviews for compatible translation apps to find the one that works best for your needs.

4. When explaining your wishes


Photo by David Pursehouse, Flickr

Ask the salon if they have an English service menu and also a colour catalog. This way you’ll have a visual on the services and colours, and you’ll be able to smoothly work out with your hairdresser what length, colour and style you want. If you’ve brought a photo, now would be the time to roll it out. 

If you have any allergies or past bad experiences, don’t shy away from letting them know. This would be the best time to make use of that translator app you downloaded earlier. A certain amount of body language will translate without words, but explaining which chemicals and/or bleaches you are allergic to without the correct vocabulary may end up with disastrous consequences. 

Another nice little tidbit is that Japanese salons have extra “services” to make their customers as comfortable and at home as they possibly can be. For example, a long shampoo - often before and after your haircut - in a fully reclinable yume chair (yume means dream) results in most customers falling into a relaxing sleep. After all is cut and coloured, they might offer you a free drink to rehydrate after all your thirsty work. This causes the whole process to take quite a bit longer than you may be used to, so make sure you allow yourself enough time so you don’t have to rush out the door, hair only half-dyed.

5. Japanese culture and mannerisms 



Being tardy is a cultural no-no. Often popular/busy salons will cancel your reservation if you are more than 15 minutes late without notice. Aim to arrive 5 to 10 minutes before your appointment. It may seem a little over the top, but if may make you feel better if you look at it as part of the cultural experience.

If you are travelling with a couple of mates and not all of them fancy a new hairdo, please try to split up into groups and go your separate ways. The salon may not be too pleased if more than 1 person is waiting for you at the hairdresser’s.

Haggling is also a cultural faux pas and is frowned upon, especially in Tokyo, except in the rarest of cases. Should your hairdresser mess up royally - dying your forehead, for example -  feel free to negotiate down to 0 yen. 

In any case, Tokyo is an odd city but full of life and kindness. People will try and help you, even though they don’t speak a word of English. Enjoy this city and have a stroll in your new hairstyle!

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Written by Ai Faithy Perez



You may also like:

Communicating at a Japanese Hair Salon: How to Get the Hairstyle You Want

11 popular hair salons in tokyo that are tourist friendly too


Kanto Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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