Japanese Hair Salons Bring Harajuku Style to East Village

Yoshihide Yonezawa, the director of Yo-C Salon on East Fifth Street, gives Nobuko Miyazaki an initial "chop cut." (photo by Serena Solomon)

The Harajuku suburb in Tokyo is famous for its wild street fashion, popularized internationally by the singer Gwen Stefani in songs and her clothing line. Now New Yorkers can bring a bit of authentic Harajuku style to their own looks, at one of a dozen or so Japanese-style hair salons clustered in the East Village, DNAinfo reported.

The often-tiny salons are not only popular with Japanese ex-pats, but westerners who enjoy the attention to detail, specific cutting techniques and shiatsu massage that are standard practice for Japanese hairstylists.

“They understand texture in a different way,” said Ali Lacavaro, 34, who has gone to the Japanese-style Redge Annex hair salon on East 10th Street and Avenue A for five years. “It hangs in a more flattering way.”

On a recent afternoon, Lacavaro’s thick, stick-straight hair fell into the trusted hands of Nori Hashimoto, a Japanese-born and -trained hairstylist. Lacavaro had been frustrated by years of haircuts elsewhere that had left her hair looking boxy and flat. Now she only goes to Redge Annex, where a haircut costs upwards of $45.

The hairdressers at these salons offer an expertise with thick, straight Asian hair, said Ai Kim, who is Korean but trained in Japan.

“We are used to making texture, making more movement — to make from more hair to less hair,” she said. “Western hairdressers might not know how to make good texture because they have never had to.”

Kim estimates that 50 percent of her clients are Japanese, the rest being mostly Caucasian, with only a few Hispanic and African-American customers.

Unlike fine hair that comes with plenty of movement, a bad haircut is more obvious on thick, straight hair, according to Yoshihide Yonezawa, the director of Yo-C Salon on East Fifth Street. He said each mistake is noticeable, adding that in Japan the female clients scrutinize each slice of the scissors and demand attention to detail, more so than the customers he now deals with in America.

The haircuts can take up to an hour, but they do include the bonus of a head and neck massage.

“It is just a part of it,” said Hashimoto, who doesn’t advertise the massage as an add-on or gimmick, but rather considers it a seamless extension of his service. He took about 15 or 20 minutes to massage Lacavaro.”The hair salons in Japan, it is a comfortable place. It is not only for haircutting,” said Yonezawa.

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