A Snip of The Story Behind Japan’s Fashionable Haircuts

Fashion is different all around the world. While there is a general idea of a trend that dictates how people should look – or what’s “in”, not every country and culture adheres to that. In fact, every culture has their own idea of what’s in – and this may look bizarre to those who aren’t from there. This goes for anything from apparel, accessories, body modification (tattoos), and of course, hairdo.

What Is Behind a Hairstyle?

The hair grows on a human scalp is has been subjected to different modes of style and grooming before history was recorded. How one wears one’s hair can even be a determinant of where someone is from, how their lifestyle was like, how old they were, what their social class was, their race, beliefs about gender, and even political agenda.

Clues About Heritage

Today, your hair can still tell a lot about you. The thickness, color, and curl can give a general idea of what descent you have, though this does not account for everyone. Europeans tend to have light brown or blonde hair (though some of them do sport black hair). Middle Easterns show with darker brown, or black hair with waves or curls, and African-Americans sport tighter, black curls, while many Asians tend to have straight, jet black hair.

How it is Kept

As for factors that you can determine yourself (cut, style, hair dyes), much of one’s personality can be guessed, just by a quick look at their hair decisions. Humans judge each other by this subconsciously. For example; is the style he had it cut in easy to manage? Then they must be someone who doesn’t want to fret too much with their physical appearance. The hair dye could be a symbol of individuality or just a streak of their favorite color. Hair height could indicate what job they have (military cuts are very short), their rebellion towards norms - or maybe it’s summer, and that person just feels hot.

Nowadays, much of the world follows trends that are started by western media. Whatever people are wearing on the latest western TV shows or commercials, or what celebrities wear are emulated by consumers. As you can see, the list could go on and on about how hair tells judgment of possible character. In terms of cut length, men traditionally wear shorter dos, while women wear longer dos – but that has only been a recent trend when you compare it to the rest of the history of hair.

Japan - especially its city spots - is a world of its own when it comes to hairstyles.  

The History of Haircuts in Japan

Not much was said about Japanese hairstyles until the 1600’s. Interest in hair fashion in Japan only truly escalated in the Edo period, increasing even more so as the Meiji period dawned. As for what is known about ancient Japanese hairstyles, here is what has been gathered in terms of what women wore.

Kepatsu – The First Noted in Japanese History

During the 7th century, Japanese women who were noble would wear their hair in a “kepatsu” style. This looks like a ponytail (tied quite high behind the back fo the head) with the remaining hair wrapped with red string, forming the shape of sickles. This hairstyle has roots to Chinese influences and could be found in ancient wall murals of citizens in that era.

Taregami; The Long Hair Cut

By the 8th century onwards, hair being kept or bundled up by a string was no longer in style, as a way of showing the country’s independence from things Chinese-inspired. Instead, women of the noble class grew their straight hair, and let it loose. This style was called the “Taregami”. The length determined the beauty of the hair; so many women would grow their hair all the way to the floor. You could see women showing off their long hair at this period in one of Japan’s famous historical novels, “Tale of Genji”.

Hime, Lengthy and Classic

It was also around this period that the Hime cut became popular. Many pieces of art that were created from 794 to 1185 AD featured a hairstyle, worn by women heading the imperial court, that was simply straight hair let loose, with cheek-length sidelocks, and straight bangs at the front. 

The Sophisticated Shimada

“Shimada” is a kind of hairstyle in Japan that grew to have 4 different variations. It’s the hairstyle that most geishas use while in performance. Popular during most of the Edo period, the Shimada hairstyles were a sharp contrast to the simple Taregami, with the Shimada’s neatly and carefully tied sections, forming a bun (or buns) bunched from the crown, pointing outwardly. Those who would wear this hairstyle during this period were young and ordinary women. 

Variants of the shimada are the Taka Shimada, Tsubushi Shimada, Uiwata, Momoware, and Torobin Shimada. 

  • The Taka Shimada is a stylish knot of hair more than it is a bun, sported by newlyweds. 
  • An older woman would wear the Tsubushi Shimada, which was a flat kind of Taka Shimada. 
  • The Uiwata differentiates itself because of the use of colored cotton crepe that ties it together. 
  • The Momoware holds a bun up, that is crossed by a section of hair, giving the impression of a peach that is cut in half. 
  • The Torobin Shimada was the most elaborate of them all, with extra folds of hair that would widely stick out on the sides, resembling a Toro lantern.

Many other hairstyles existed alongside the shimada and its variants during the Edo period, serving different purposes and symbols. There’s the vertical mage, yoko-hyogo, gikei, maru mage, and osuberakashi (in chronological order of use). 


For men, the Chonmage, written as “(丁髷, ちょんまげ)” is the most iconic hairstyle of all Japanese hairstyles. This hairdo consists of the remainder of the hair of the man oiled, queued, tucked away, and knotted at the top (hence the name “topknot”), with the rest of the pate shaved. This was at its hottest during Japan’s Edo period. The reason the top knot exists in the first place is truly for the samurais so that the helmet that a samurai traditionally wears does not to fall off, holding on to that single slicked segment of hair. 

The Man Bun

Because of the prestige that comes with being a samurai, it’s no wonder that Japanese men adapted this haircut during the Edo period. You’d think that it would stop there, but have you ever heard of the phrase, “history repeats itself”?

Technically, nowadays, only sumo wrestlers wear the traditional style of this do. Around the world, though, the “man bun” has sprung into popularity, with roots dating back to this Japanese hair trend. The difference between the man bun and the chonmage is that the man bun is simple hair tied up towards the crown of the head (a little lower than the chonmage), with the option of having a shaved undercut. As of 2010 onwards, this haircut has been one of the fashion-forward masculine haircuts you could choose for a guy.

The Latest Hair Cut Selections from Japan

It’s been determined that the way you wear your hair can speak volumes about you. It can thus be understandable how someone would want to make sure that their hairstyle represents the person they want to be, or want others to see. 

Japan has all kinds of haircut styles that you can choose from, many of them simple, others can be avant-garde and daring. As of 2017, the latest and most-loved styles are as follows:

  • The Knot Pony is a simple look for those who have straight or wavy semi-short hair. It’s feminine and easy to do. You simply pull hair from the sides of your head backward, where you knot it in the middle of the back of your head. Finish off with a headband or ribbon, and voila – mission accomplished: fuss-free and gorgeous.
  • Cropped and Messy Bobs are all the rage now, especially if you have the face shape (heart or triangle) to rock it. It’s the most fuss-free of all hairstyles in terms of a morning routine, but you will have to take care when it comes to growing it out properly if you decide to lengthen your hair. Feel free to add more personality to your bobs by dyeing it, or adding accessories.
  • Roller Buns are back in today’s time from the early 2000’s – if you’re daring enough to go for this short but voluminous style. You’ll stand out from the crowd, as this hairstyle connotes hints of rebellious funk and grunge. 
  • For those who have long, straight/wavy hair, the Centre Virtual Bouffant, and Swirled Bouffant are simple and elegant long-haired choices to go for. The Centre Virtual Bouffant is an everyday look you can sport, perfect for going to school or to a December party, pairable with most clothes and light makeup. It is done by segmenting the center of your hair and tying it backward, letting the remaining sides of your hair loose. The Swirled Bouffant is a little more complicated and is done using a few techniques with some bob pins and a side clip.

The Hottest Hair Salons To Try Out in Japan 

A semblance of understanding between the hairdresser and customer is crucial to accomplishing decent haircut, which is why it’s crucial to find a hair salon with bilingual hair stylists if you’re a foreigner looking to get a haircut in Japan. These two hair salons have been vouched for when it comes to just that:

  • Hayato Tokyo, located at 3-7-1 Roppongi, Minato Ward, Tokyo, is one of the safest choices you could make for getting your hair done. Not only do the hair stylists speak English, they’ve also gone through training and classes abroad, specifically in New York. You have the best of both worlds here, as they can give you a haircut that is uniquely Japanese while being able to properly converse and understand your wants and needs when it comes to your hair. 

You can call Hayato Tokyo at 03-5574-8844. It’s open from 10 AM to 9 PM on weekdays as well as public holidays, 10 AM to 7 PM on Sundays. It is closed on Tuesdays. 

  • Word is that Shinka at Roppongi is another great hair salon for foreigners in Japan. Japanese-owned but Australian-based, print and online media have raved about this hair salon for a few years now. Hair products used here are made in and shipped from Australia. This salon is also known for their great work at dying hair in a watercolor-like style. 

You can find Shinka on the 2nd floor of Roppongi FIVE, 5-18-20 Roponggi, Minato Ward, Tokyo. Their phone number is 03-5575-6786, and they are open from 11 AM until 8:30 PM on weekdays, 10:30 AM until 630 PM on Saturdays and public holidays. It’s closed on Sundays, as well as the 2nd and 4th Mondays each month. 

How Much the Cost of A Haircut in Japan?

Depending on which salon you go to (Tokyo has the most expensive rates compared to hair salons in other prefectures), expect a range of around 3,500 yen to 6000 yen. Hayato Tokyo offers options that cost 5,000 yen, which is about 45 dollars. 

If you want a quick haircut and don’t miss the frills of going to a fancy salon, there are salons out there that give 1000 to 2500-yen haircuts. Those salons include QB House, FaSS, Assort, and Atelier Haruka. Going to a barber would also be marginally cheaper.

Where to Give My Dog A Haircut in Japan

Japan isn’t just good with styling hair for humans – they’re great at doing it for pets too. On the search for a place to have them trimmed? Head over to DOG Grooming Shop at 〒2-38-4, Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo, 155-0031. Established in 2004, this grooming shop is known to give the most adorable haircuts (with the right amount of love and attention) to your dear pets.

Having a haircut in a different country is something everyone should try – think of it as both a souvenir and an experience. Whether it’s for your dog or yourself, Japan’s hair salons can be a window of opportunity transform hair to fit today’s Japanese trends.