Throwback Thursday: Going to the Hairdresser’s

So today I thought I’d write about an experience that can be daunting for foreigners living in Japan – going to the hairdresser’s.

I’d been to the hairdresser’s in Japan before on my year abroad (to get highlights put in, which went really well) but since I didn’t write about that experience I thought I’d write about my more recent one.

Both times I went to salons where the employees only spoke Japanese, which I realise might be pretty scary, but if you have a fairly strong conversational level of Japanese and know how to say exactly what you want done to your hair, I think you might be okay (I was studying at JLPT N3-N2 level on my year abroad, and am pretty much at N2 level now (I missed out on passing the last test by 2 points, hence the ‘pretty much’) . Saying that though, JLPT doesn’t exactly have a section on going to the hairdressers, nor does it test on speaking, so basically, as I said, it’s moreso a question of whether you’re confident in your Japanese speaking ability.

I went to a salon I always walk past on my way to work, figuring it’d be most convenient, since I don’t finish work til 5 and figured it’d be busier at a weekend. As it turned out, when I arrived for my appointment there was only one other person having their hair done.

What did I want to have done to my hair anyway? You’re probably wondering. Since I actually went for this appointment in the humidity and heat of last summer, I’d decided to get a straight perm for the first time. My hair is naturally course, thick and I’ve grown it down to my waist, so in the humidity I wasn’t used to, it was going all poofy and fuzzy and just generally looked and felt frumpy and horrible, so I wanted to get it under control, and I’d heard a straight perm was a good way to do that.

I had no idea, however, that it’d cost me 3 hours of my time and 13,000 yen of my money. Having gone after work, in the duration of the appointment I watched the sun go from properly out, to setting, to the sky getting dark behind me. I got out of my 5.15pm appointment at about 8.30pm. Both of these things are understandable given the amount and density of hair I have, but it would’ve been nice to get a quotation beforehand.

Anyway, the process.

First, I had to fill in a form about my experiences with haircuts (whether I’d been to the salon before, why I’d come to this salon, where I’d been before, any problems I have with my hair, what I wanted to do with my hair this time etc.)

Then, they started putting the straightening chemicals on my hair. I say ‘they’ because, as I have so much hair, the manager and an assistant were doing a side of my hair each (I dread to think how long it would’ve taken with just one of them since it took 3 hours with both of them). The manager gave me magazines to read but also chatted with me in Japanese and asked me fairly simple questions like where I was from, what I’m doing here, whether I’d been to Japan before, what my family’s like, where in Japan I’ve been etc. All of which, thankfully, I was able to answer just fine. Strangely they talked to me more than hairdressers in England normally do, even though even in England hairdressers have a reputation for being super chatty (maybe my serious default expression puts them off).

After my hair had been covered, and after waiting a while (possibly with one of those heating machines over my head? I can’t remember) it was time to wash out the chemicals, so I was led over to the sinks and sat down, then a blanket was put over my legs before the seat went back so it was pretty much horizontal (the hairdresser’s on my year abroad also had chairs like this by the sinks, so I’m not sure if it’s a normal thing here or whether I just got lucky). I personally love that they have chairs like this here, as it really decreases the chance of getting neckache when having your hair washed, because you’re not having to lean back and tilt your head back into the sink, and because you’re horizontal, there’s not as much of a chance for water to drip down the back of your neck. Before the washing began, the manager  (who was the main one doing my hair) put what I can only describe as tiny showercaps over my ears. I have never experienced this before, so I was biting my lip trying not to laugh at the ridiculousness of mini ear-showercaps, but it was actually a very neat idea, since it stopped water getting in my ears and also protected my earrings.

After a very thorough wash (and some rather vigorous scrubbing of my scalp, probably because I noted I get dandruff) it was apparently time to dry my hair. Once again, one of the assistants/other hairdressers helped dry it, each person drying one side of my hair.Once they’d finished drying it and just as I was thinking everything was over, they started putting the chemicals on it again! I didn’t realise you had to do it twice! So I had to go through the whole putting on the chemicals, waiting for them to set kinda thing, washing my hair, and drying it again. By the second time my hair was being washed I could see why they gave me the leg-blanket, ’cause I was falling asleep.

Eventually though, it was finished, and I was super happy with it, my hair looked sleek, straight and was the softest it’d ever been. It’s not an exaggeration to say I had tears in my eyes, because this was how I’d always wanted my hair to be when I was growing up.

Even after washing it over the next weeks and even months, my hair remained beautifully straight, with no flyaway strands in sight. I was told the treatment would last 6 months, and now that 6 months have passed, I can say that it definitely has, and even after that my hair still feels much more manageable than it did when I got here.

If you’re tired of your hair being a fuzzy poofy mess in the summer, or in general, I’d definitely recommend a straight perm~

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