I’m a short hair almost military-style kind of a haircut guy living in a country whose men favor hair with flair. Men in Japan don’t look to handsome Hollywood screen legends like Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Harrison Ford or Julie Andrews for inspiration. They look to musicians and artists ala Tina Turner, Barbara Mandrell, Fredrick Chopin and Andy Warhol for tips. Teased, feathered, fried or dyed, no hairstyle is too faggy for the hyper fashionable, ultra modern and creepily androgynous Japanese man.

This is why I was happy to find a barber in my neighborhood when I first moved to Tokyo. The sign outside the stairs leading up to his second-floor establishment read “Spoken English.” At the time, my Japanese was limited to key words and phrases like excuse me, please, thank you and only if you pay me, so I was happy to find a barber who spoke English.

Koetsusan is a short, squat, pale, pumpkin of a man with a round and caring grandmother’s face. He greeted me that first time as he has done ever since then dressed like Chucky from those “Child’s Play” movies.

“Herro!” He smiled. “Firs time?”

“Konichiwa. Yes.” I answered.

“How you rike hair?” He asked.

“Short, like short. Short.” I said figuring that if I said the word short enough he’d get the idea that I didn’t want to look like a local peacock.

Nearly three years later, our conversations have grown to include topics like food, movies, vacations, hobbies, parties, my partner and tattoos. I take the opportunity to practice (butcher) my Japanese. He takes the opportunity to practice (slaughter) his English. Discussing food means I’m talking about Mexican favorites and Indian restaurants so before long our little talks sound like a futuristic L.A. street scene from the movie “Blade Runner.”

Him: Member you say las time you see movie Ratatouille wit friend. I too saw it.

Me: Honto? Ratatouille ski deska?

Him: Mmmmm not so mush. Mmmmm so-so.

Me: See! I told you it was only OK. I really like the classical music you are playing on the radio. Classical music ski deska?

Him: Not so mush. Customer say rike so I have. Why Ratatouille rike tattoo? You know tattoo? Tattoo?

Me: I have a tattoo. I have a tattoo on here (motioning to my right hip). Tattoo ski deska?

Him: Honto? Mmmmm. I no rike. You make food tonight?

Me: Hait. Tofu tacos toe guacamole.

Him: Honto? Tofu taco oishideska?

Me: Hait. Totemo Oishides!

I leave the barber with short hair, a smile and the sudden fear that I’ve crossed into The Twilight Zone.

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