My girlfriend and I had been dating for just over a year. We decided to celebrate our anniversary to visit her home in Japan. She’d grown up in Tokyo with her family until she moved for university in the states where we live now. It would be my first time traveling to asia and I didn’t know what to expect. Thank god I was going with my girlfriend so she could do all of the translations and I could have a ‘local’ experience.
The first few days were chaotic— robot bars, family dinners, hot pot, the best dumplings I’ve ever experienced. By the end of the third day or going out every night I asked for a day off just to sleep in and do nothing. Lisa was content with that and we spent the morning together and laying in bed.
“I’m going to run down to the salon this afternoon. Theres a big one a few blocks away. I’d kill for a japanese head massage right now.”
“That sounds nice,” I said, rolling over in the duvet to face her. “What a japanese salon like?”
“They cater to you so much more than in the states. Long head massages and sometimes they give you a blanket to keep you warm. You want to see it? Its a pretty wild experience” She laughed to herself.
We moved slow to put shower and put on clothes continuing our lazy day. We finally left the house around 3pm, stopping for coffee and a sandwich.
When we got to the salon I saw it really was an experience. It was a massive place that looked more like a factory than a salon. There must have been nearly 50 chairs in there down several rows. Girls were sitting under dryers like I’ve never seen before. Some had what looked like giant umbrellas on their heads. Others had electric rods hooked up to their head like a machine was about to read their minds.
I sat in the waiting area and Lisa’s name was called pretty fast. I flipped through a magazine in the waiting area with the other girls as she went back to get her hair washed. I got a message on my phone from Lisa “Come back and sit with me.”
I walked down the rows of girls with identical black hair in identical white capes. On the fourth row I saw Lisa wave to me. There she was, her hair wet and under the cape, but it wasn’t like in american salons. This cape was long, covering herself and the entire chair. The cape had sleeves so her arms sat in her lap. she had a towel around her neck and with the cape buttons over top of it, it made it look like she had a life jacket around her neck. It was the funny site to see my girlfriend like this. She resembled more of a strange alien monster than the cute girl beneath the gown. I made a giggle to myself and got out my phone to take a picture of this site.
She laughed at me. “Stop that,” she smiled. She opened up a page from the magazine resting against the mirror. “Were doing that?” she said, pointing to a picture of a short bob on an Asian girl.
“Oh wow,” I said. “What a change!” I tried to sound enthused but I really couldn’t care. Her hair currently hung down to just below her shoulder braids.
She was speaking in Japanese to the stylist and they were going back and forth and laughing. I looked in the mirror at myself and tousled my shaggy hair. My blonde hair was overgrown, I was still hoping I could pull off some sort of ponytail in time for summer and had gotten a light trim a few weeks ago to keep it fresh. While I was looking at myself in the mirror I realised Lisa and the stylist were looking at laughing at me.
“What?” I said. The stylist walked off and Lisa sat caped alone in the chair.
“Oh Charlie, your hair is such a mess. let’s get it a bit of a trim.”
Before I could respond or even process the question the stylist came back with another pretty female stylist. The three of them then began talking very fast. Lisa kept her hands under the gown so I couldn’t see any of her motions. Then the new stylist put her hand on my should and made a motion to follow her.
I gave a confused pleading look to Lisa. “Oh this is so great You’ll love the massage and you’ll look so cute.”
I have to say the massage was tremendous. The chair vibrator like a massage chair and the head massage lasted nearly 10 minutes. When I got out of the shampoo chair I felt in an enlightened state. I followed my stylist past the rows of girls getting their hair done. I could feel the eyes on me. After all, not only was I the only guy getting their hair done there I was also the only person with bushy blonde hair instead of straight black hair. They’d probably never seen someone with hair like mine in here.
I sat down in the chair and Lisa was in the chair diagonal to see so I could see her but couldn’t hear her over the glass. The hairdresser was cutting her hair dry now. Whole clumps of thick black hair lay wet and limp on her cape. The cape was being covered more and more in the thin dry pieces as the stylist layered her hair. She kept her eyes on herself in the mirror. I could tell she was nervous. I knew her most apprehensive state.
My stylist appeared behind me and threw the long cape white cape over me. She said something I didn’t understand but then I realised she was asking me to put my hands out to go through the sleeves. She tied it in my back and I looked at myself in the mirror. This was one of the most embarrassing I’ve ever looked. I now looked like a strange alien. Hopefully nobody I know would ever see me. The girl in the chair next to me still had her cape on and sat under the dryer. As I checked my surroundings to hide from any embarrassment we caught eyes and she made a giggle to herself looking at me. I hoped this all happened fast and we could get out of there.
She started to comb my hair and I closed my eyes trying to relax. She stopped combing my hair and I heard her give two clicks of her scissors. Then everything happened so fast. I opened my eyes as she started cutting and she was cutting it off nearly at my scalp. She was fast in her work and my heart skipped a beat but that single beat must have been 5 snips of the scissors. My jaw dropped at I saw the wet blonde hair hit the white gown. I looked aghast at myself in the mirror. She was cutting it all haphazardly, just chopping away and throwning the loose hairs on my cape. I looked over at my girlfriend desperately, trying to plead to her with my eyes. Could she help stop this? Could she translate that I didn’t want this? But when I looked over she and the stylist were both looking at me giggling. My girlfriend gave me a thumbs up. ‘Oh my god’ i thought, ‘my girlfriend tricked me into this haircut.”
The stylist continued chomping through my hair until there was less than a centimetre anywhere. Then she pulled out the clippers. Had my girlfriend asked for this? Then the clippers turned out and before I could say something to get out of this nightmare the stylist pushed my head forward and I felt the vibrations at my neck shearing away at what was left of my hair. Two of the stylists in the salon came over. They stared talking to the stylist and I could tell they were giving her compliments “Terrific job” would probably be the translation. I kept my head down staring at the mound of hair in my cape covered lap. I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair shorn away. I wanted to cry in front of all these japanese girls watching me.
When the stylist was finally done buzzing away my sides I could see my girlfriend making a waving motion to the stylist. The stylist then said something to me but I didn’t understand her. Then she tapped me on the back and I realised she was asking me to stand up. I got up carefully with the cape on, watching as it slid off the chair. It was a walk of shame. My girlfriend was beckoning me over for inspection like a doll. I walked down the aisle past the girls in their chairs and enveloping capes and they looked at me in their mirrors.
When I arrived at lisa she was squeezing. “Oh my god you look so cute! this is such a great cut”. She was sitting now under a dryer still caped. She motioned for me to lean forward. I bent down and she ran her hands over the sides and top. “hmm” she said then broke out in japanese to the stylist. Then the stylist spoke to me and I realised she was patting the chair next to Lisa encouraging me to sit down. I followed their instructions hoping this humiliation would be over soon. Lisa turned her chair to face me as I looked at my shorn head in the mirror. Thats when I realised my stylist had the clippers back in her hand. I looked over fast at Lisa who was facing me and she was smiling ear to ear. I guess she has a thing for short haired guys. The clippers didn’t have any guard on them and she pushed them against my head. I saw as any remaining hair I had on my sides or back was removed down to the scalp.
When she was done scalping me and my shoulders were sufficiently covered in short hair slipping she turned my chair towards lisa. It was the silliest circumstances, both of us in the absurd overflowing gowns looking like aliens as she told someone in another language how to shear my head. Lisa nodded in approval and I was finally done.
At nearly the same time our capes were removed and gathered in a bunch and pulled off us like a magician revealing a surprise.
Lisa nodded and we paid and walked back into the sunny Tokyo day.