One of the first things one needs when one shifts to a new country is getting the basic necessities right. Along with sorting out accommodation, where to buy groceries, learning how to navigate the trains system, etc. come the smaller but equally important things like where to get a haircut.

It might seem like a daunting task to get a haircut in Japan especially if you do not know the language. You are used to the hairdresser back in your country and he or she used to cut your hair just as you like it. But here you are faced with an entirely new person who may not understand your language and a country where hairstyles may be entirely different than what you are used to.

The hairstyles in Japan may be different but  Japanese salons are supposed to be some of the best in the world and their stylists are some of the most qualified. Japan is well known for its superb haircuts and styles. Another reason why I personally like to visit Japanese salons is that they really know how to pamper and look after their customers.
The famous Japanese hospitality – Omotenashi – the art of looking after your guests is very much evident in Japanese salons. It is not simply a haircut, it is the way they fuss over you to make sure you are comfortable in your chair, the gentle hair wash, and the conditioning before every cut, and my favorite part – the head and shoulder massage just before the haircut.

Besides the simple cut and wash Japanese hair saloons also offer services like hair color, perm, straightening, conditioning treatment, hair extensions, style setting, etc.
Although there are many unisex salons in Japan for haircuts, salons that cater to only guys are known as Toko-ya or sanmpatsu-ya. The ladies go to a Biyoin – which is the Japanese term for a Beauty salon.
Most hair salons will have a menu – yes that is what their list of services is called in Japan and the price of the various services will be clearly mentioned.

Japanese Hair Salon Vocabulary

Let me tell you the basic Japanese terms you will need to get a haircut.
Let’s start by making an appointment:

Yoyaku shitai desu – I want to make an appointment
2 ji ni youyaku dekimasuka – can I make an appointment for 2 pm?

Once you are in the salon you will be asked by your stylist the kind of haircut you want.
You can be adventurous and say Omakase shimasu – Which means I leave it to you. But it will really help to know a few basic terms. Fortunately, most of the terms you will need to use in a hair salon are katakana – all borrowed words from English

Kami – Hair
Katto – Cut
Pa-mu – Perm
Toritomento – Treatment
Buro – Blow dry
Kiru – the verb to cut
Kami wo kitte kudasai – please curt my hair
Pa-mu onegai shimasu – please give me a perm
Toritomento onegai shimasu – I would like a hair treatment, please

Once you have established the fact that you want a haircut. Here are a few other terms that will help you:
Nagai – Long
Mijikai – short
Maegami – bangs

Mijikaku shite kudasai – please cut it short
Maegami wo sukoshi katto shite kudasai – please cut my bangs a little bit

Salons also offer color services and will probably offer you a range of color choices. Luckily instead of explaining the color, you can easily point at the color you want from the color book.
Someru is the verb used to color hair.
kami wo somete kudasai – Please color my hair.

Once you have communicated effectively the kind of haircut you want, you will then be led to wash your hair. Usually in Japan, while washing hair, your face will be covered by a thin paper towel. The wash is usually followed by conditioning. After that, you are led back to your chair where you are given a short but very relaxing head and shoulder massage. This is then followed by your haircut and blow-dry.

One of the biggest complaints foreigners have in Japan is that the stylists here do not really understand the western hair texture and type.
However, Things have changed over the past couple of years and now there are many salons where the stylists are trained internationally and can also speak English.

Some of the well-known English-speaking salons in Tokyo are One World, Hair dress Azabu and Gold salon in Azabujuban, Sozo in Omotesando, and chains like Assort and Hayato Tokyo that have many salons across Tokyo.
Haircuts in Japan are a little expensive as compared to countries but there are options to get a cheaper haircut – Some places offer a quick cut for about a 1000 yen. These are usually frequented by men who do not mind a quick no-frills haircut without any pampering. QB House is one of the most popular cheap barbershops.
But if you are like me and want to get pampered, a well-known specialist hair salon is the place to go!