Afro-hair care can be complicated while living overseas, but with some careful research your hair can thrive—just like going back home.
Japanese hair salons have a strong reputation for the quality and service they provide. Even something as simple as a bob cut requires hours of concentration to get the angles just right. Then, at the end of your salon experience, the stylist recommends the best products to maintain your hairstyle that you can hopefully find in local stores.
Going to one of these hair salons is an experience in and of itself, but it’s often an experience that many afro-hair individuals aren’t able to enjoy. Spend two minutes in the beauty section of the store and you’ll quickly realize that most products are aimed at individuals with straight hair and made to “tame” frizz and curliness.
Salons in Japan often lack the training and resources to accommodate afro-hair individuals, often resorting to recommending straightening treatments or downright refusing services. However, as the awareness of Black and African cultures increases in Japan, we’re finding more and more stylists and products that are able to cater to the sensitive needs of the afro-hair community.
Shopping for hair products
The limited availability of specific salons for afro-hair often pushes many people into taking care of their hair at home with simple styling techniques.
You likely won’t find Shea Moisture or Aunt Jackies in any physical store here but you’ll still be able to partake in using shampoos, conditioners, oils and even hair treatments. Product lines such as the Tsubaki Premium Moist Shampoo and Conditioner along with the Pantene Rich Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner are highly recommended for curly and afro-hair textures. As for hair masks, the Fino Premium Touch is highly recommended for all hair types in Japan. Stores like Ales Shop, while still limited in their selection, offer hair products such as extensions, creams, sprays, accessories and so much more for both straight and afro-hair textures. I highly recommend visiting the store since their online shop doesn’t have everything they carry.
N Brand is produced by the Nepenji Hair Salon known for its Devacurl treatment. The brand was produced specifically for people with curly and coarse hair. Lush and BodyShop stores are also readily available international brands in Japan that offer ethically produced body products for people with all hair and skin types. Aside from buying locally, there are also a few stores that ship international products to Japan. The prices tend to be a little higher than what you would expect in your home country, but it’s often the sacrifice you make when living overseas.
Connect with local salons
Despite how difficult it can be to find afro-hair stylists in Japan, there are still some residents here who have taken up the mantle to really target haircare within the afro-hair community.
Salons such as Roppongi 806 have been around for years with an extensive list of clients ranging from residents to celebrities and provide excellent space and service for afro-hair care. Other hair salons and barbers have slowly been popping up over the years as the need for more hair services is growing.
A perk about visiting Black-owned hair salons is that many of them carry international brands specific for afro-hair such as TGIN, Shea Moisture and much more. It’s also important not to ignore the Japanese-owned salons that have stylists with specialized training in afro-hair styling. While the price range tends to be higher than smaller salons, the service you receive often matches the price. Unfortunately, these afro-hair salons are typically located in Japan’s bigger cities, but there are some salons that offer more specialized services in small towns, as well.
More salons and barbers in the Tokyo/Kanagawa area:
Connect with the community
Regardless of the salons you visit or the number of products you order online, nothing trumps having a solid connection with your community.
Special interest groups not only provide resources on afro-hair care but also a space to discuss culturally sensitive topics, share stories and allow us to learn from and support each other as we build a community here in Japan. More importantly, you’re able to connect with people who look similar to you and can relate to you on a much deeper level outside of hair care. Groups such as Black Women in Japan, Black in Japan and Black Creatives Japan all provide resources and support for people of the African diaspora to connect with each other. Here you’ll find tips and resources on what others are doing for their own afro-hair care regime and might find yourself coming in contact with local hairstylists. These are also the groups that will help provide DIY recipes for how to make products at home, offer reviews of hair salons in Japan and even offer tutorials on how to style your hair.
As the wider Japanese community becomes more aware of afro-hair care practices, we’re seeing many organizations offering more inclusive services to better address the concerns of their community. Organizations such as the Legacy Foundation Japan and HBA Beauty Academy offer culturally inclusive classes to parents of afro-hair children to learn proper care and styling techniques.
More Interests for People from the African Diaspora
Afro-hair does require some extra attention for proper care, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying yourself while living in Japan. You likely won’t be able to experience a lot of the same comforts you had back home but that just means you’ll have to find the beauty in the local experience here. Even if you’re the only afro-hair individual living on a small rural island, remember there is a whole community of people here going through the same struggles as you. With some careful research and patience, you’ll quickly find that your hair thrives just as well in Japan as it does anywhere else.