9:30PM on Sunday night in Tokyo and the Hair Salon is bustling. There are actually people waiting their turn to spend more than $ 100US to color, tease, and style the head s of 36,000,000 people. Maybe it’s just sheer numbers but I have never seen so many hair salons in my life. The Japanese are so very into their hair. Guys too. I had great difficulty in processing that fact. The guys had colored their hair – that Henna color being the preferred shade. Then the teased odd hairdo’s that were I assume to suggest a highly self-expressive individual. I felt it made men look like a bunch of wusses. Maybe the women like that but I can’t really say for sure.
But servicing the customer is what the hair salons are all about and staying open late on a Sunday night speaks to that more than anything else could. I am also aware that so many young unmarried Japanese women live at home with their parents (cultural and economical) and have ‘disposable’ income. That income seems to direct line to their hair and clothes. But the guys too? I fail to understand how looking like someone should beat you up would attract the ladies. Yet another reason why hard as I try I just don’t really understand the Japanese.
Almost all the Japanese dress stylishly even to go to the market. On Saturday or Sunday as well. Many of the outfits are chic and tasteful and then there are those that border on the provocative. They guys look more like they stepped out of a bad George Michael Video. Then there is the mask thing. I was there during allergy season but even though I had seen photos of Asian people wearing hygiene masks I was not prepared for the amount of people wearing them as they walked around and rode the subway. Apparently after WWII a host of cedar trees were planted in Tokyo and the residents suffer miserably in the spring during allergy season. But at times it was 50% of the people. Alarming. And something you would never see in the United States.
The other mask I noticed in Japan was the one worn by people when they were alone just walking around going about their business. Implacid faces, vacant looks, I am trying not to think it was just me but their overall demeanor was radically different when there were two or more people. Americans may not be the most friendly people on the planet but they will at least look at you when you walk by. The mask must protect people but I admit I had no success in getting used to it.
There are many things that make Tokyo so very different from the western world – I keep thinking of new ones all the time.