I’d been putting off getting my hair cut for a while, and it’s probably fair to say that I was getting a bit “scruffy”.
The reason for the delay was partly because I worried about my ability to communicate my preferences to a hairdresser (not that I have an incredibly complicated hairstyle – normally my instructions amount to “the same, but a bit shorter”). But mostly, my reticence arose from the fact that haircuts in Japan are, for the most part, stupidly expensive.
A typical bloke’s cut over here will set you back about $70-90. My hair grows really fast, so I generally need a cut every 5-6 weeks. This level of expenditure didn’t seem sustainable on a humble English teacher’s salary.
I briefly discussed letting my hair grow a bit longer with my supportive other half. Moon Tan was having none of it. She patiently but firmly explained that, no, it was not okay for me to have long hair.
“But this might be the last time in my life that I’m free to have a terrible hairstyle! I need to express myself. Besides, Johnny Depp does it”, I whined manfully.
“There’s only one Johnny Depp, and you’re not him” came the reply. And that, it seemed, was that.
One of my flatmates told me that he’d heard of some cheap haircut places in Shinjuku — not that he frequented them. I jumped online, googled “cheap haircut Tokyo”, and found my way to the web site of QB House. Their motto: “Just cut – 10 minutes – 1,000 Yen [about $10]”. An enticing prospect.
My co-workers weren’t so optimistic. “You need to be careful. You go into those places and tell them what you want, and they smile and nod and say ‘sure thing’. Then they go ahead and shave your head regardless of your instructions”. That sounded ominous.
So it was with a degree of trepidation that I wandered into a QB House in Shinjuku. My expectations were low, but what choice did I have?
QB house in action is a wonder to behold. Their claim of a 10 minute haircut is a promise, not a threat. The three barbers on duty, all male, were not mucking around, and they were clearly big fans of the Edward Scissorhands approach to haircutting – faster than the eye can see.
When you walk in, you feed your 1000 yen into a machine, take a ticket, and take your spot in line on a big bench. While I was there, I didn’t see any girls volunteering for the 10 minute treatment. I think it might be a guy thing.
There is no smalltalk; no need to scramble to produce an interesting answer to “so, have you got any big plans for the weekend?” or “seen any good movies lately?”. There is no pampering, no “you’re worth it”. You’re not worth it – if the haircut makes the man, you are worth precisely 1,000 yen. There is no careful examination of every individual follicle to maximise its style potential. This is shock and awe.
And the result? Well, thankfully, it’s not terrible. In fact, not bad at all. My new cut is a good length, and apart from a slight chunk that seems to be missing from above my left ear, very even. It’s not the best haircut I’ve ever had, but in the past I’ve paid a lot more for a lot worse.