Stylist in one of Tokyo’s most diverse neighborhoods transforms our reporter.

Tokyo doesn’t have any officially designated ethnic enclaves like a “Chinatown” or “Little Italy.” The Shin Okubo area, though, just north of Shinjuku, has emerged as a gathering place for parts of the foreign-born population as well as native Japanese residents interested in those overseas cultures.

While Shin Okubo is best known as a center for Korean cuisine and pop culture, in recent years a Nepalese community presence has formed in the neighborhood as well, and today we’re paying a visit to the Nepalese-run Raisan Hair Nepal salon.

When our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma rolled up to the place, he felt a little uneasy, since the entryway was dark and deserted-looking. But the door was open, and he’d made an appointment for the day and time he showed up, so he stepped across the threshold and once he was actually inside the salon itself, he found a brightly lit interior and warmly welcoming staff waiting for him.

Masanuki would be getting his hair cut by none other than Raisan’s owner herself: Rai (a.k.a. “Rai-san”). An eight-year resident of Japan, Rai attended hairdressing school in Tokyo’s Roppongi neighborhood, obtaining her certification prior to opening Raisan Hair Nepal two years ago.

Masanuki decided to put the fate of his hair entirely in her trained hands. “Please give me the most popular hairstyle among Nepalese guys these days,” was his only request, and Rai sprang into action.

Short hair is in fashion, explained Rai, so the trimming started with her grabbing a pair of clippers and shaving Masanuki’s sides, and also cleaning up any hair clinging to the base of his neck.

For a brief moment, Masanuki had a flashback to his Kim Jong-un makeover, but he was sure Rai had something more stylish in mind for the finished product.

Once the clipper trimming was done, Rai needed to rinse off the loose hairs from Masanuki’s head and wet down the top before starting with the scissor work. She directed him to a hair-washing basin, and after he laid his head down in it, he was startled to discover that instead of the warm water usually used at Japanese hair salons, at Raisan Hair Nepal the water is unheated, and so on the chilly side.

This turned out to be a genuine cultural difference. “In Nepal, they say that if you rinse your head with warm water, your hair will thin,” explained Rai, and while Masanuki wasn’t sure he’d like the custom for a midwinter haircut, on a warm spring afternoon it was actually kind of refreshing.

Then it was back into the chair to trim the top…

…comb and style with wax and hair spray…

and Masanuki’s “fashionable Nepalese dude” haircut was complete!

The end result was both stylish and sporty, the sort of thing that would go just as well with casual beachwear or a snappy three-piece suit. Also, while you can’t tell in photos, the hair products Rai used left Masanuki’s hair very sturdily sculpted, so much so that he believed the integrity of the styling would hold up against even a mild typhoon.

As an added bonus, Raisan Hair Nepal is extremely affordable. Masanuk’s haircut cost him just 2,000 yen (US$19), a veritable bargain by full-service Tokyo salon standards (and just like with restaurants, there’s no tipping at salons in Japan).

So while this might not look quite as dynamic as Masanuki’s last haircut, he’s got no complaints, and he thinks he’ll be back again the next time he needs a trim.

Salon information
Raisan Hair Nepal / ライサンヘア ネパール
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Hyakunincho 2-20-23
Open 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Closed Tuesdays

Photos © SoraNews24
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