Zusso Kids Makes Children’s Haircuts Fun

By Philomena Keet
December 19, 2013

Taking toddlers for haircuts can be only slightly less traumatic than trips to the doctor or dentist, especially when, as with my little boy’s salon debut, they are greeted by a room of stylists wielding sharp pointy objects around the heads of people otherwise sat ensconced in white sheets. Which is why the Tokyo specialist hair salon chain Zusso Kids is a godsend to busy mums, turning a potential disaster into a pleasant treat.

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For Benji’s hopefully smoother second cut we booked an appointment in the salon on the kids floor of Tobu department store in Ikebukuro. The salon has four locations in Tokyo, but they all share the same features and tactics that help encourage their unpredictable, energetic clients into happy, motionless ones. The most striking fixtures are the mini-size sports cars that are raised off the floor instead of seats. Benji eagerly clambered into his yellow VW Beetle as if it were a fairground ride, not a glorified barber’s chair, which is obviously the point. At other stores he could have opted for a Mercedes or Mini.

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Barely had he had a chance to take it for a test drive, when he was asked what DVD he would like to watch, Thomas, something about cars, Inai Inai Baa (a popular Japanese children’s TV program) or Anpanman. These were all in Japanese, but Mickey Mouse and Tom and Jerry were also available if English was preferred. Needless to say, once Anpanman was doing his heroics on the screen, Benji became still as a statue and oblivious to the world around him, including the scissors circling and snipping at his locks.

In terms of the cut itself, I was just asked how short I’d like it to be and whether I’d like hair in front of his ears or not. The hairdresser clarified what she meant be showing me a style magazine full of photos of kids hairstyles, so even if your Japanese is limited and you wanted a particular cut, you could get by with a pointing at one of these.

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After the cut comes the wash.  In this store, the child climbs up some stairs to an orange platform, almost like something at a playground, along which he lies down aided by the stylist, his head dangling over the basin at the end. Benji was quite cooperative, although it easily could have gone the other way; at least there were some soft character toys dangling above the sink that could have helped in that situation. Zusso Kids uses its own branded hair products, including a gel that can a give a fashionable rumpled finish to the hair. These are available to buy at the counter.

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Next, it was back to the car and the DVD for a blow dry, final check and dust off. But the fun doesn’t end there, as then, in a nice Japanese touch, they are given a small pot of yogurt to drink as they remain glued to the screen.

I didn’t see any girls in the salon while we there, but they are certainly welcome. With the cars the salon does have a more boyish feel, but there were handmade hair accessories for girls on sale at the counter. And for mums blessed with babies with plenty of hair, they can be brought along as young as four months or so and have their locks cut as they sit on mummy’s lap. You can also opt to have the first snips of baby hair preserved as a calligraphy brush or framed keepsake by ordering this service directly at the counter. Older kids are also welcome, who graduate from the raised cars to normal chairs.

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The whole thing took just over 20 minutes from arrival to payment and cheery goodbyes. So the flat price of ¥3,900 for a cut, shampoo and blow may seem somewhat steep, but we should remember that with toddlers the least time taken over a cut, the better. For the more fashionable kids, perms and styling are also on the menu, as well as hair treatments and a simple shampoo and blow dry.

Benji had so much fun that he unquestioningly swallowed my suggestion that the trip had been a treat in itself, thus enabling us to pass through the toy department on the way back without arguments about buying any treats or rewards for being a “good boy” at the hairdresser’s. Think of it that way, and the price seems far more reasonable.

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He arrived at daycare the next morning ready to show off his new cut. His teacher remembered taking her own children to the Ikebukuro salon at least 20 years ago and fondly reminisced about the same hassle-free experience we had had the day before.

In addition to the Ikebukuro branch, Zusso Kids has salons in Shinjuku, Tamagawa and Kichijoji. For more information, see the official website (Japanese only).

The Deets

Address: 1-1-25 Nishi Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3971-5682

Open: Daily, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (last appointment 6 p.m.)

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