When you first came to Japan did you hear horror stories about how Japanese hair stylist cut foreign hair? How Japanese hair and foreign hair are too different to get a decent cut? How they could potentially leave you with an unflattering mullet? Well I did, and I was terrified to get my hair cut, especially since I have been with the same stylist for about 10 years. So, I resigned myself to waiting until August of 2013 (one full year) before cutting my rat nest of a curly head.
I had given up straightening my hair because, lets face it, anybody who has curly hair knows that it will frizz and curl the moment any moisture hits it. That’s hard to avoid when living in Toyama Prefecture where 99% of the time it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, hailing, humid, and all around wet. (That other 1% is the few and far between times that the sun will shine its merry and beloved face upon us drenched folk for all of 10 seconds, before being hidden by the mass of clouds that perpetually dwell around.) Well, at least my hair turns into a frizzy mess and to put in the extra work of making it look decent (only to sport the disheveled look a mere 15 minutes later walking to school) was not worth it. So I decided to just keep it curly and see what would happen in a year.
However, my hair was not to be tormented for the 12 months I thought it would be. During winter vacation while staying in Tokyo before flying to our adventures, Sarah Reid (another fellow curly girl and JET) had found what we lovingly call a “curly hair goddess” in Tokyo. Now this wasn’t a planned hair cutting expedition. She just happened to be researching about where we could possibly get our hair trimmed when, by some grace, lightening strike, chorus of angels, and what have you, she happened upon a site that described Nepenji and Kiyoko: “Tokyo’s premium curly hair specialist salon” with “stylist Kiyoko who learned all there is to know about working with ringlets over six years in New York, at the specialist Deva Chan Salon.” (You can read more about it here: http://metropolis.co.jp/specials/940/940_top.htm.)
We found this site at 5:30pm in Ikebukuro while deciding if we wanted to see a movie. After calling, we had booked appointments (in English) for 6:30pm that same night and ditched the movie to hustle ourselves over to the salon in Ebisu. After getting lost (but of course) we found Nepenji and the staff waiting for us. Kiyoko and her staff were amazing. For 8000 yen we were treated to hairapy (yes I just made that up); three hours of glorious head pampering and great conversation both in Japanese and English. We were introduced to the wonders of the Deva Curly Hair collection (of which you can’t find ANYWHERE in Asia and is specially imported by Kiyoko for her clients), and how to properly care for our curls.
I’ve hated my curls for most of my 23 years. I’ve had short hair, medium straight hair, bobs, pixy cuts, long hair always kept up in a pony tail or straightened, the Brazilian straightening treatment, and anything that would not make me have to take care of curls. In that time I’ve also dried my hair out so bad that the smallest bit of static would set it on its end. But I fell in love for the first time with my curls after Kiyoko waved her magic hair shears. I had never seen my formerly hated curls look so good. Sarah, too, looked at her beautiful golden locks with shock and awe. It was a great moment to actually be happy with something you naturally have that others perm to get. (Jealous now?)
Now I wear my natural curls everyday. They are healthy and gorgeous, and I am continually surprised by how easy it is to maintain them. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the Deva Curl collection yet in Asia, but I will eventually be ordering it online or from Nepenji directly. If you have curly hair and are afraid to get it cut before seeing your own stylist at home, I highly recommend going to see Kiyoko. She will do a fabulous job with your hair, and in a way you may not expect. I certainly didn’t.
For more information check out their English website and their Facebook group. You can also contact me if you want to hear me gush more about how amazing a place it was and how to find yourself there right after reading this article.
Fabulous people and an extremely talented, friendly, and helpful curly hair specialist (goddess!) awaits you!
P.S. For all those straight haired people out there also afraid of getting their hair cut, I’m sure Kiyoko or one of her staff does an excellent job on straight hair as well.
This article was written by Alex Melillo, a first year ALT in Takaoka City. The photos were taken by fellow curly girl Sarah Reid, who is also a first year ALT in Takaoka City.