It’s official. I’m a cheater. I didn’t think I’d ever get to this point in my life but yet here I am- trying to come to terms with the fact that I cheated on my barber. It’s one of the cardinal rules of (black) hair care- Don’t Cheat on Your Barber. And yet, here I am sitting in a Japanese barbershop about to be faded by someone who can barely speak English. But, boy did it feel good though. In fact, it’s the best hair cut I’ve ever received since living in Japan. Probably the best hair cut I’ve ever received in my life (I haven’t been cutting my hair for very long). It was the perfect fade.
There’s this unspoken rule amongst black people, that other groups don’t really know how to take care of us. A lot of products and services that claim to be “all-inclusive” are in fact inclusive to all except for black people. So if we don’t see ourselves in the advertisements or even some prior clients on your social media then your business most likely won’t receive any black dollars.
But there comes a point when you have to step outside of your comfort zone- when the service you were receiving prior just wasn’t cutting it anymore. You have to move on to see what else is on the horizon.
Read maintaining 4c hair in Japan
Before Christmas break, I decided I wanted to start over. So I cut my hair off and dyed it blonde because, well why not. It was a beautiful decision but the previous barber I went to didn’t cut my hair the way I really wanted it to be cut, and the lady that dyed my hair charged me over $200 dollars to bleach it. And I can’t go into 2020 using the same method; they both ran their course in terms of getting started but I need someone who actually knows whats going on with my hair.
On the Search
It’s no surprise that in the land of the rising sun, getting a hair cut is expensive but add the language barrier on top of high pricing it feels damn near impossible to snuff out a decent spot. I’m not sure if it’s so much of a problem in America but I never realized before that stylist and barber require two sets of skills. While a lot of places certainly advertised haircuts, most places didn’t specify if they could actually give you a lineup or a skin fade.
Another was the issue of finding a place with a good atmosphere. Short edgy hair isn’t really something women go for in Japan and salons that are geared towards women don’t emphasize shaving. I received a bunch of recommendations from friends (non-black) that were telling me about salons that specialized in curly and textured hair. They were certainly good leads but curly hair and afro hair are like apples and oranges. Sure they’re both fruits but they’re grown from different trees. Curls and kinks are not one in the same and the way you style and the products you use for them are going to be very different.
It took me about a good month of digging and researching before landing somewhere that was worth my money.
The Barba Tokyo- バーバ東京
The Barba Tokyo is a small Traditional Hair Salon in the Akihabara District of Tokyo. The inside resembles an Americana 50’s style barber while the stylists are still fashion-forward.
“男性がオシャレできる空間”- We’re able to create a stylish atmosphere for men
They focus mainly on men’s styling which is apparent once you step foot into the shop. It definitely has the air of a “men’s club” but ladies are more than welcome too! The pricing is reflective of Tokyo living, 5,000 JPY~ for shaving and for first time coloring is 6,000 JPY. It’s more expensive than American Salons but, it’s definitely not going to break the bank. And the quality really speaks for itself.
In terms of atmosphere, I give it 5 stars, the shop was clean and had a lot of character. I was offered a beverage, my coat was hung up, and my barber was very friendly. I don’t think there’s a set uniform but there’s definitely a theme with the way the barber’s dressed. Like a west coast meets, Japan meets Americana 50’s. Everyone was very friendly as well. Most of the barbers spoke at least basic English and they’re very used to having foreign customers. Apparently there are a lot of athletes that come and get their hair cut there. So I don’t think you’d have much trouble in terms of communication.
Is this the Perfect Fade?
I have to say I’m extremely happy with my results. I never like my hair after the new trim but this was something that I was immediately satisfied with. In the end the total cost of a skin fade with bleach, and color came to 16,000 JPY ($140), still pricy for my American tastes but well worth the money. The first time I bleached my hair, my hair came out kind of hard and more yellow than blonde. But now it’s super soft and the color I think looks more natural compared to the first time.
After getting this haircut I could finally understand why people obsess over their barbers because I truly cannot stop looking at myself in the mirror. I’m all for supporting black business in and outside of Japan, but I think I’ll have to make an exception to the rule this time. You just can’t beat quality service.