Bad Haircut Day

It's time for a haircut. My grey locks rather than flowing gracefully, stand up in the breeze making me look like a mad professor. My wife insists I go to a particular barber in the OLD part of our town. His family are friends of her family and we must support their business. It's the way people do things here.

I make my way down there, through the forests of bamboo, into the narrow alleyways, across a small bridge, past the old style houses and eventually I find the place. I go inside with the obligatory greetings: "Konnichiwa" etc. The Barber's Shop has crass 70's decor. In fact it looks like the last time it was redecorated was in 1973. A small television is on the wall broadcasting the sumo. Two flies are buzzing around - this must be the only place in Japan with flies at this time of year. There is a faint smell of urine in the air.

A man and woman are sitting on a bench. They look ancient. They are in traditional dress - kimono and yukata. The barber invites me to sit in the chair. He is fat, in a country where most people are thin. He reeks of sake. He asks me how I would like my hair done, the words slow and slurred. Oh my god, he is drunk. I tell him to just take a little off. I'm not sure if it was my poor Japanese or his condition but the end result was only a little left. He snipped and sheared away as if there was no tomorrow and I was left with a buzz cut. Not to worry, it will grow back. My greatest fear then materialises. He gets the razor out: "Would you like a shave ?" His fat greasy hands are visibly shaking.

It was at this point that I lost my ability to comprehend Japanese. This happens sometimes under stress when your mind is racing. I speak ENGLISH to him "No No No thankyou". He understands. The ordeal is over. It cost 2,500 yen (about AUD$30).

This is not the Japan you see in travel brochures. This area is populated by old people and their first born plus assorted village idiots. My barber is an eldest son and a village idiot (yes he makes the grade in both categories). He has taken control of his Father's business and in the space of 15 years he has run it into the ground. Of course the eldest son must take on the family business regardless of how many brain cells he has. The other children leave to Fukuoka or further afield to Tokyo or Osaka for education and work. A diaspora of sorts. Eventually they marry and settle down somewhere else in Japan. Their children grow up without the knowledge usually imparted by the grandparents. What effect will this breakdown of the extended family have on the future of Japan ? Some say it's already having an effect.

I'm happy enough living here. It's the old world Japan. Their is a great sense of community which I love despite the village idiots. I've never experienced discrimination. Maybe it's just Nagasaki. There is a history of foreign sea captains marrying and living with beautiful Japanese women here. Fictional and non-fictional.

© Patrick Quinlan
January 2005