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Getting a Haircut for Free in Tokyo

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When I met Yulia Hidehiko at a store-opening party in Harajuku a few weeks ago, I complimented her on her hairstyle. She told me that her father cut her hair for her at a salon just down the street. She said I should come by sometime for a haircut. I didn’t think much of it, but a few days later I got an email from her. Her father, Ito Hidehiko, was ready for me to come down anytime -and what was better, he said I could be a “cut model” and get cut for free. I am not one to pass up opportunities like this. I had been needing a haircut for awhile, so I went to meet Yulia & Mr. Hidehiko at his salon, the m2 Peek-a-Boo.

Turns out there are about seven Peek-A-Boos just in the Harajuku area. The one I was visiting was located on Meiji Dori in the direction of Shibuya, right down from Omotesando Dori.

Peek a boo sign

I knew that I would get great treatment and professionalism, going to a salon right down the block from one of the fashion epicenters of Tokyo. I took off my coat and met Mr. Hidehiko, who handed me an elaborate robe and showed me to the shampoo area, where his assistant wrapped a towel around my neck and gave me a fine shampoo and scalp massage.

Gettomg a haircut in Tokyo

I took this chance to look around the place, leaning back in the shampoo chair. Practically all white interior, well lit, a few blue crystal chandeliers, and some nice artwork on the walls. The place was pretty busy, clearly Mr. Hidehiko had his work cut out for him.

I expected one of the assistants to do the work on my hair, but after a thorough shampooing, Mr. Hidehiko himself sat me down. His assistant handed him a pair of sharpened scissors. I felt the same reluctant fear that I always feel when I am about to get my haircut. You never really know what you are going to get, especially in a foreign country. I asked him a few questions to ease my worries.

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“So how long have you been doing this?”
“Over twenty years.”

“Is a foreigner’s haircut more difficult than your average Japanese haircut?”
“No, it’s easier. Japanese people typically have very coarse hair, which makes it much more difficult to cut and style compared to average European or American hair.”

I found this hard to believe. I have seen haircuts all over Japan, and most Tokyoites have haircuts that look effortlessly stylish. You don’t see mullets or overgrown college-hair mats in Tokyo.

Yulia and Ito

Yulia and Ito

I finally relaxed and let him do his thing. I’m usually sad to see my hair go, especially after I have spent a few months letting it grow out -but this time there was no pain. Mr. Hidehiko did all of the work with a comb and a pair of scissors which he expertly navigated over my cranium, a constant snowfall of hair floating to the ground. He threw some sculpting medium into my hair, livened it up a bit and then just when I thought he was done he took a look at my mustache and my deliberate 5 o’clock shadow that was now way past 7 o’clock and on it’s way to beard town.

“What do you think? Needs a trim, eh?” I said, inspecting the bushy caterpillar on my upper lip.

He smiled and agreed, busted out a fine tooth comb and electric trimmer and evened everything out. By the time he was done he had made me handsome, somehow. He had a look of satisfaction on his face. I could tell he takes pride in his work. With hair, Mr. Hidehiko clearly knows what he’s doing, having cut heads from all over the world. He told me that he recently debuted a few cuts at a fashion show for Revlon.

Hideko and assistant

Yulia came up and showed me around the store a little, and I took a few pictures before I left. They asked me to come back next time I needed a trim, and I almost felt bad for not having to pay a single yen for such a nice cut. I will definitely be coming back here, even if next time I have to pay.

-Appleton Piper

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Mike has lived in Tokyo for more than 10 years and loves sharing his knowledge about Japan's metropolis.

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