Toni & Guy, Ebisu
In my first year or two in Japan, I had a lot—and I mean a lot—of really bad haircuts. I have a ton of hair, and it seemed that most of the Japanese stylists I visited just had no idea what to do with it. I think they figured that if they dry cut a bunch of whispy layers in, it would lighten up the volume and give it more movement, but with my hair this tends to have the exact opposite effect. I've never been one to be reduced to tears by a bad haircut—it does grow back after all—and I also never felt right going back and asking for the stylist to fix it (come on, if they didn't get it right the first time, what were the chances they would do any better the second time?). But on more than one occasion I remember leaving the salon, going directly home and doing the best I could to salvage it myself.
After going through this scenario more times than I care to admit, I finally made the decision to fork over the extra cash to have my hair cut by an internationally-trained stylist; someone who was more likely to know his way around Western hair. I had had good experiences with Toni & Guy when I lived in London, so I called up the Hiroo branch to make an appointment. The person who answered the phone asked if I preferred a junior stylist or the head stylist, and I didn’t hesitate to go with the latter, despite his fee being considerably more. If I’m going to do this, I thought, I might as well go all out.
The stylist who cut my hair was Kazuhiro Kawai, and I’ve never been so relieved as I was when I left the salon that day. Before he sent me to the shampoo station, he asked what I wanted done. I, in turn, asked what he suggested, and when he said layers to lighten up the volume, I emphatically refused, mentioning to him all of the other horrible experiences I had had. “That’s probably just because the stylist didn’t do the layers well,” he said. Of course he was right, but I had no reason to believe he would do any better. Still, I took a leap of faith, and I have never looked back.
Since that first visit, I have been to other stylists in Tokyo as well—both foreigners and Japanese—but none who I have found to be as capable, skilled and accommodating as Kawai-san. A few years after I started going to him, he opened his own branch of Toni & Guy in Ebisu, and I happily followed him there.
The salon, in a corner building opposite the tracks of Ebisu Station, is stark white and simply decorated, with lots of light pouring in from the sizable windows. Every member of Kawai-san’s team is very friendly—some, including Kawai-san himself, even speak English—and like many upscale salons in Japan, the service is amazing. The prices, while not cheap, are comparable for Tokyo (and, in my experience, well worth it). A cut ranges from ¥6,300 to ¥7,350 and a color starts at ¥6,410 and goes up from there.
During my last visit, Kawai-san took some time to explain some of the latest technologies in use at the salon, which is always working to incorporate new products that set it apart from its competitors. Over the past year or two, there has been a beauty trend in Japan of using carbonated water to wash your skin or hair. We’re not talking about bathing in Perrier here—as Kawai-san explained, the carbonated water used in beauty treatments undergoes a different process than the stuff we drink, making it hold its carbonation for much longer. The idea comes from naturally carbonated spa baths in Germany, which for centuries have been believed to have various health benefits, including improving circulation and cleansing the skin and hair of pollution and product remnants that can be difficult to remove with shampoo. Toni & Guy Ebisu also employs—and acts as a dealer for—a newly developed Japanese showerhead that uses “micro bubble” technology. Kawai-san says this has similar effects to the carbonated water, and is especially good for deeply cleaning one’s scalp.
I tried both things during my visit, so I can’t say for certain which was more effective, but I did notice that my hair was tamer and smoother than usual. Kawai-san said that since the two devices had cleaned my hair and scalp more deeply than shampoo alone would, treatments and conditioners would also be more effective. I put this theory to the test in the shower the next morning, and while the difference wasn’t huge, I did sense that there was some kind of improvement. Then again, it could have just been the result of Kawai-san’s expert cut.
Address: Ebisu Minami 1-12-1, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open: Mon, Wed-Fri 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat, Sun and hols 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Tue, third Mon of the month
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