©Photo by SavvyTokyo

My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo

A Summer Haircut For A Good Cause

By Shelley Smith
July 29, 2022

A win-win scenario: A refreshing summer haircut for me and a new wig-do for a cancer patient in need.

I hadn’t been to the hairdressers in two and a half years over the pandemic and it was time to freshen up for the hot and humid Japanese summer. But after growing my hair out for so long, I didn’t want my hair to go to waste. That’s when I started looking into donating it. 

© Photo by SavvyTokyo
Japan’s humid summer is much too hot for all this hair.

With the help of hairstylist Chie Funakura and her salon in Harajuku, Silva Papilio, I was able to send off my hair to Japan Hair Donation and Charity and get a-rockin’ new summer look. 

Can you donate?

My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
This hair took me two and half years to grow out from shoulder length.

According to Chie a hair donation charity will accept most hair donations as long as it isn’t highly damaged and over 31 centimeters in length. That means as long as you have the required length to donate regardless of texture or color and even, in some cases, bleached as long as it doesn’t break apart when lightly tugged on. However, many charities prefer dark brown or black hair in order for them to create a wig most naturally suited to Japanese patients.

My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by iStock: hanapon1002
Your donated hair will be turned into a medical wig for Japanese cancer patients, most often children.

Yes, 31 centimeters is quite a bit to donate but I ended up donating around 35 centimeters which grew out from shoulder length. A site that lists hair donating salons around Japan, Hair Doneige, says on average, growing your hair out 31 centimeters will take about three years to achieve. So if you want to donate hair but don’t have the length, you might need to wait a while. However, once all that hair gets finally cut away, the feeling of accomplishment will definitely gratify you! If you’re someone who already has the required length, make this your sign to finally try out that new summer short-do.

Contacting your salon

My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
Silva Papilio is an English-speaking hair salon in Harajuku.

There are multiple ways to donate hair in Japan but the easiest way I recommend is to contact your usual hair salon and ask if they provide a hair donating service. If they say yes, all you need to do is book your usual appointment whilst making sure to mention you want to donate your hair. Some salons might offer to cut your hair for donation but will return your hair back to you at the end for you to donate yourself. If your salon doesn’t provide any sort of service you can either attempt cutting your hair yourself or find another salon that does.  

Cutting it off

My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
Separating the hair in sections makes the hair lengths more accurate and easier to cut.

Now to the fun part, chop-chop! As well as being washed and dried beforehand (very important as your hair might mold if you leave it wet), the first step to cutting hair will involve tying it up into separate sections with rubber bands. Chie recommends tying these bands at least a centimeter below where you want to cut your hair as you will need to leave that space when cutting. 

My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
Chie let me cut one of the sections myself. Very nerve-racking!

From here you might want to measure out the hair tied up to check if you have the required length. Make sure you cut at least a centimeter above where you’ve tied the rubber band. 

Cleaning up

My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
This was my first time getting my hair cut this short!

I was lucky enough to get Chie to do all the work, including cleaning up the haircut once all the sections were cut off. If you choose to do all the work yourself at home you’d probably need to book a hair appointment anyway just so you don’t look like this: 

My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
I will never attempt to cut my own hair, that’s for sure.

Sending the hair off

If you’re like me and went to a salon that cuts and donates hair for you, your hair donation journey comes to an end with you getting a fresh new do. However, if you’re someone that visited a salon that returns your cut hair to you or you cut the hair yourself, here are some tips to get the hair to the charity of your choice. Although Chie usually donates hair cut at her salon on behalf of you, she let me take my hair back home so I could demonstrate that process.

Bundle the hair up in a big rubberband 
My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
Use one or two rubber bands to keep the hair together so that the hairs don’t get all knotted up when placed in the envelope.
Fill out any documentation asked for by your charity (usually a donor form, a piece of paper with your name and place of residence, or an online form) 
My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
I chose to send my hair to Japan Hair Donation and Charity (JHDAC) as their site is all in English and accepts hair of all kinds. They also send you a proof of receipt as long as you include a separate regular-sized envelope with your address on the front with an ¥84 stamp and their address on the back.
Put the bundled hair and printed documents together in a big enough envelope/letter pack. 
My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
An A4 letter pack can be easily purchased and sent off from your local convenience store for about ¥370.
My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
Make sure you have the correct mailing address of the charity of your choice, seal it all shut and send it off! 

Thanks to Chie the whole hair-cutting process was so easy for me. Her salon in Harajuku was very relaxing and smelled amazing. Chie speaks English so I was able to communicate the kind of hairstyle I was after. If you’re in search for a friendly English-speaking salon I highly recommend visiting Chie’s salon Silvia Papilio, whether you’re looking to donate your long hair or just after a usual hair appointment.

My Experience Donating Hair In Tokyo© Photo by SavvyTokyo
Thanks Chie!

The Deets

Silvia Papilio

  • Address: Galleria Harajuku 2F, 3-6-1 Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo
  • Business hours: Tue-Sun from 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. (Closed Mon)
  • Instagram: @chie_funakura_silvapapilio
  • Colors products are imported from Europe

Japan Hair Donation and Charity (JHDAC)

  • Donatable hair types: all natural hair types are welcomed, also artificially colored, permed or bleached hair, as long as it’s not highly damaged
  • Address: NPO JHD&C, Chiyoda North 7A 13-38 Naniwa-cho, Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan 530-0022
  • What to include in the envelope: Your hair, donor sheet form and a separate envelope with your address on the front with a stamp and JHDAC address on the back (only if you want proof of receipt)

Growing out my hair for donation took a long commitment and many bottles of shampoo and conditioner to maintain. Still, it was definitely a rewarding experience and it really was all worth it. 

For more details about donating hair in Japan check out my article on Gaijinpot, or if you want to watch a video of my personal experience check out this video on YouTube:

Have you ever donated hair before? Tell us about your experience in the comments. 

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