How to get a Haircut in Japan – Japanese Tips

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It’s easy to think getting a haircut, especially in a place like Japan, can be a daunting undertaking. What about how to get a haircut in Japan where English is still a fairly scarce commodity, it is the exception rather than the rule when trying to locate a hairdresser that communicates with your mother tongue.

Being the beginning of 2018, and while we still have a few days left in January, now could be a good chance to make good on that Japanese New Years resolution. Whether it’s a bold new haircut or even just improving your Japanese in Japan, we have designed this guide with you in mind, to help you through the major steps required for that fresh new look.

Introduction to the Haircut Basics

A hairdressing salon or beauty salon is known as a 美容院 (びよういん or biyōin). Similar to the word for the hospital – 病院 (びょういん or Byōin), the difference in pronunciation is subtle, but still there! There are two common words for barbershop namely 床屋 (とこや or toko-ya) or 散髪屋 (さんぱつや or sanpatsu-ya). Meanwhile, the main man/woman responsible for sculpting your new fuzzy style is called a 理容師 (りようし or riyōshi) meaning hairdresser or barber, or sometimes simply referred to as a スタイリスト (Sutairisuto) aka Stylist.

Luckily, a lot of the loan words used in Japanese are similar to what you’re already used to in English. The basic vocabulary that is helpful to know includes:

  • メニュー (menyu) – Price List (for a hair salon)
  • カット(katto) – Haircut
  • シャンプー (shampū) – Shampoo
  • ヘアコンディショナー (hea kondishona-) – Conditioner
  • リンス (rinsu) – Conditioner
  • ウェイブ (wiebu) – Waves
  • パーマ (pāma) – Perm
  • ストレートパーマ (sutorēto pāma) – Hair Straightening
  • ブロー (burō) – Blow Dry
  • トリートメント (torītomento) – Treatment

Many hairdressers actually do have a menu (メニュー) outside their salon, which is just their price list (unfortunately no food is included with your shave or colour), and this gives you a basic idea of what is available. If you are having trouble reading the price list, sometimes it is easier to ask directly. A simple phrase you can use is:

カットはいくらですか (katto wa ikura desu ka?) How much is a haircut?

If you can read the menu and are satisfied with the pricing, you can use one of the following requests:

  • カットをしてください (katto wo shite kudasai) A haircut, please!

Perhaps the main difference between Salon’s and Barbershops in Japan is how you make a reservation, similar to that of a restaurant. Typically, most hair salon’s will not let you walk in off the street and wait for a stylist. You will usually need to make an appointment for later that afternoon at the very least, or in the next few days or week(s). Barbershops, on the other hand, tend to be cheaper, pretty flexible and will accept walk-ins for an instant new look. You can identify them from their spinning whirly thingy as pictured below:

Entering the Establishment

Assuming you have already made a booking at the salon, as you enter staff at the counter should greet you and say the following:

  • いらしゃいませ (Irashaimase) – General greeting meaning ‘welcome’
  • ご予約の名前は何ですか (ごよやくのなまえはなんですか or goyoyaku no namae wa nandesuka) – What name is your reservation under?

If you haven’t made a reservation yet, and would like to, using a simple phrase like this is best:

カットの予約をしたいのですが (カットのよやくしたいですが or katto no yoyaku shitai desu ga) – Can I make an appointment for a haircut?

Sometimes at salons staff may even ask if you would like tea or coffee, this is your choice of course, and usually, there is no additional charge.

  • お茶 (おちゃ or ocha) – Tea
  • ティー (tī) – Tea
  • コーヒー (kōhī) – Coffee
  • ミルク  (miruku)
  • 砂糖 (さとう or Satō) – Sugar

Once you are finished with all the formalities, or if you’re at a barber you would have skipped all these steps, so it is time to talk business, ie – how you want your haircut. A common question most hairdressers will ask you is:

  • 今日はどうしますか (きょうはどうしますか or kyō wa dō shimasu ka?) How would you like your hair today?
  • 長さはどうしますか (ながさはどうしますか or nagasa wa dō shimasu ka?) What about the length?/How long do you want it?

At the salon no doubt explaining what, how, etc could be a long-winded process, so why not simplify the painstaking procedure and show a photo instead. Use that photo from your wallet or the one stored on your smartphone and request:

この写真のようにしてください (このしゃしんのようにしてください or kono shashin no yō ni shite kudasai) – Please cut my hair in the style shown in this photo

Perhaps, you have no idea what you want and would prefer to leave it in your trusting stylist’s hands. Those brave enough to take the plunge can simply go with the line:

お任せします (おまかせします or omakase shimasu) – I’ll leave it to you.

Additional Terms and Phrases

To add to the word bank, here are some further words that may assist in your, and to add to your overall grasp of Japanese vocabulary.

  • 髪 (かみ or kami) – Hair
  • 切る (きる or kiru) – To cut
  • 短い (みじかい or mijikai) – Short
  • 長い (ながい or nagai) – Long
  • 前髪 (まえがみ or maegami) – Fringe (bangs)
  • もみ上げ (もみあげ or momiage) – Sideburns
  • 枝毛 (えだげ or edage) – Split ends
  • えりあし (eri ashi) – Hairline at the back of the neck
  • バリカン (Barikan) – Electric Razor
  • 分け目 (わかめ or wakeme) – Parting
  • 横 (よこ or yoko) Side(s)
  • 後ろ (うしろ or ushiro) – Back (of your head)

Of course, single words are just the tip of the iceberg, using them to form actual sentences goes hand in hand with boost your Japanese proficiency and the stylists understanding of your request too.

  • 髪を切ってください (kami wo kitte kudasai) – Please cut my hair.
  • どのくらいかかりますか (dono kurai kakarimasu ka) – How long will it take?
  • 10センチぐらい切ってください (juusenchi gurai kitte kudasai) – Please cut off about 10cm.
  • 前髪を切ってください (maegami wo kitte kudasai) – Please cut my fringe (bangs).
  • もっと短くしてください (motto mijikaku shite kudasai) – Please cut it a bit shorter.
  • すいてください (suite kudasai) – Please thin it out.
  • 髪を染める (kami wo someru) – Dye hair
  • ピンクに染めてください (pinku ni somete kudasai) – Please dye it (my hair) pink.
  • もう少し切ってください (mou sukoshi kitte kudasai) – Please trim it a little more.
  • このあたりを、もう少し切ってください (kono atari wo, mou sukoshi kitte kudasai) – Please trim this part a little more.

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