Communicating at a Japanese Hair Salon: How to Get the Hairstyle You Want

Written by Tokyo Beauty Stars Editors
March 14th, 2017

Trying a new salon anywhere can be stressful, but it’s infinitely more so in a foreign language. Whether you’re a tourist looking for a unique experience or you’re here for the long-run, use this conversation guide to help make your trip to a Japanese salon go as smoothly and as stress-free as possible.

Photo by Sodanie Chea, Flickr

Anyone who has ever been to Japan has likely noticed how incredibly beautiful most people’s hair is. While this may be due in part to good genes, it’s much more likely that these fashionable locals frequent a good salon. The salons of Japan are some of the most technologically advanced in the world, and the staff members pride themselves on their superior technique, exceptional customer service, and that special Japanese hospitality (おもてなし, omotenashi) not available anywhere else.

The basic services available in Japanese hair salons (美容院, biyo̅in) include: shampoo, haircut, blow dry, hair color, perm, straightening, conditioning treatment, extensions, style setting, make-up, and more. While these may be offered in most countries, the experience of a visit to a Japanese salon is incomparable . That being saidHowever, many people visiting Japan avoid this luxurious experience despite wanting to try it simply because of the language barrier. Worrying about communication takes the fun out of an experience that is supposed to relaxing.

Photo by bobbi vie, Flickr

Here’s everything you need to know in order to make your next salon visit in Japan a smooth one!

1. Basic Salon Vocabulary


haircut カット (katto)
trim トリミング (torimingu)
layer レイヤー (reiya̅)
shampoo シャンプー (shanpu̅)
color ヘアカラー (heakara̅)
highlights ハイライト (hairaito)
perm パーマ (pa̅ma)
straightening treatment ストレイトパーマ (sutoreito pa̅ma)
conditioning treatment トリートメント (tori̅tomento)
blow out ブロー (buro̅)
blow dry ドライ (dorai)
style setting セット (setto)
curl カール (ka̅ru)
make-up メイク (meiku)
bangs/fringe 前髪 (まえがみ, maegami)
blond hair 金髪 (きんぱつ, kinpatsu)
red hair 赤毛 (あかげ, akage)
brown hair 茶髪 (ちゃぱつ, chapatsu)
black hair 黒髪 (くろかみ, kuropatsu)


thick 多い(おおい, ooi)
thin 少ない(すくない, sukunai)
long 長い (ながい, nagai)
short 短い (みじかい, migikai)
bright 明るい (あかるい, akarui)
dark 暗い (くらい, kurai)


*Though there are Japanese verbs that could be used, one simpler way to say something is to take any noun taken from English and add する (suru) to make it a verb. For example:

to shampoo シャンプーする (shanpu̅ suru)
to blow out ブローする (buro̅ suru)
to set セットする (setto suru)
to apply make-up メイクする (meiku suru)

For more traditional Japanese verbs:
to cut 切る (きる, kiru)
to color 染める (そめる, someru)
to put in highlights ハイライトを入れる (はいらいとをいれる, hairaito o ireru)
to thin out すく (suku)
to add layers レイヤーを入れる (れいやーをいれる, reiya o ireru)
to curl 巻く (まく, maku)

2. How to Make a Reservation

Photo by Iain Watson, Flickr

*While most salons can accept walk-ins, this isn’t recommended. Especially for tourists here with a limited window of time, it’s much safer to find a salon and to make an appointment beforehand. This can be done by phone or by visiting the salon in person to make a reservation for a later date and time. For those living in or visiting Tokyo, check out tokyobeautystars for bookings, reservations, and special service deals in English.

First, let’s discuss days of the week and times:

Days and Times

Sunday 日曜日 (にちようび, nichiyo̅bi)
Monday 月曜日 (げつようび, getsuyo̅bi)
Tuesday 火曜日 (かようび, kayo̅bi)
Wednesday 水曜日 (すいようび, suiyo̅bi)
Thursday 木曜日 (もくようび, mokuyo̅bi)
Friday 金曜日 (きんようび, kinyo̅bi)
Saturday 土曜日 (どようび, doyo̅bi)

Different salons have different holidays, so it’s a good idea to either check online or ask when they’re closed.

today 今日 (きょう, kyo̅)
tomorrow 明日 (あした, ashita)
9:00 9時 (くじ, kuji)
10:00 10時 (じゅうじ, ju̅ji)
11:00 11時 (じゅういちじ, ju̅ichiji)
12:00 12時 (じゅうにじ, ju̅niji)
1:00 1時 (いちじ, ichiji)
2:00 2時 (にじ, niji)
3:00 3時 (さんじ, sanji)
4:00 4時 (よじ, yoji)
5:00 5時 (ごじ, goji)
6:00 6時 (ろくじ, rokuji)
7:00 7時 (しちじ, shichiji)
8:00 8時 (はちじ, hachiji)

Stating AM or PM and military time is also fine, but it’s not necessary. To make the time between the hour, simply add 半 (はん, han). For example, 2:30 would be 2時半 (にじはん, nijihan).

Photo by mrhayata, Flickr

Let’s take a look at an example conversation:

*Note: を is traditionally pronounced as wo, but it is currently pronounced o in speech. Either pronunciation would be understood, but the modern pronunciation was used in the following romaji.

Example conversation

Customer: I’d like to make a reservation.
(Yoyaku shitai n desu kedo…)

Stylist: Okay! What time would you like it to be?
(Hai, wakarimashita! nanji ga yoroshii desho̅ ka?)

C: Is there an appointment available at 6:00 today?
(Kyo̅ no rokuji ni yoyaku dekimasu ka?)

S: I’m sorry, but we’re booked during that time. Would you like to book a different time
for today or tomorrow?
(Sumimasen ga, sono toki mo̅ yoyaku ga arimasu. Kyo̅ ka ashita, hoka no jikan ga yoroshii desu ka?)

C: I see. Then could I make a reservation for 12:30 tomorrow?
(Wakarimashita. Dewa, ashita no ju̅nijihan ni yoyaku dekimasu ka?)

S: Yes, that time is available. What will we be doing?
(Dekimasu yo! Dousaremasu ka?)

C: I’d like a shampoo, conditioning treatment, and a haircut.
(Shanpu̅, tori̅tomento, katto o onegaishimasu.)

S: I have you booked for a shampoo, haircut, and conditioning treatment for 12:30
tomorrow. We’ll be waiting.
(Ashita no ju̅nijihan ni shanpu̅, tori̅tomento, katto desu ne. Sore dewa, omachi shite orimasu.)

3. During the Salon Visit: How to Explain Your Wishes

Here are examples of how to inform the stylist about the specifics of your hair and the cut you’d like.


I’d like it about 2 cm shorter.
(Ni senchi gurai kitte kudasai.)

I’d like my bangs cut a little more.
(Mo̅ sukoshi maegami o kitte kudasai.)

I want a short cut.
(Mijikaku shite kudasai.)

I want my hair shoulder-length.
(Kata made kitte kudasai.)

I just want a trim.
(Torimingu dake de ii desu.)

Cut to here, please. (Use your hand to show the stopping point.)
(Kono hen made kitte kudasai.)


My hair is damaged.
(Kami ga itande imasu.)

My hair is thick.
(Kami no ryou ga ooi desu.)

My hair is thin.
(Kami no ryou ga sukunai desu.)

Do you think my hair will be damaged if I dye it?
(Hea kara̅ o shitara, kami ga itamimasu ka?)

How much would it cost to color/perm/straighten my hair?
(Hea kara̅ / pa̅ma / sutoreito pa̅ma wa ikura desu ka?)

Which conditioning treatment is best for my hair type?
(Kamishitsu ni dochira no tori̅tomento no ho̅ ga ii desu ka?)

How long will it take?
(Dono gurai jikan ga kakarimasu ka?)

4. During the Salon Visit: Discuss Hair Designs

Let’s look at some examples of what can arise during a salon visit for various services.

Stylist: What are we doing today?
(Kyo̅ ha do̅ saremasu ka?)


Customer: Can you cut and style my hair like this picture?
(Kono shashin no katto to sutairu ni dekimasu ka?)

Do you have any style books or magazines? I haven’t decided.
(Hea sutairu no hon ya zasshi ga arimasu ka? Mada kimete nai desu.)

Do you have a recommendation?
(Osusume wa arimasu ka?)

What’s the popular style right now?
(Ima ninkino sutairu wa nandesuka?)

Hair Color

Can I see your color samples?
(Hea kara̅ no sanpuru o misete kudasai.)

What color do you recommend?
(Osusume no iro wa nan desuka?)

I’d like blonde/brown/red hair, please.
(Kinpatsu / chapatsu / akage de onegai shimasu.)

(Pointing to a sample) I’d like this color, please.
(Kono iro ga ii desu.)

Please give me highlights.
(Hairaito o irete kudasai.)

Can you dip-dye my hair?
(Gurade̅shon kara̅ o irete kudasai.)

Perm/Hair Straightening

I’d like a weak/strong perm, please.
(Yurume no / kitsume no pa̅ma o kakete kudasai.)

I’d like waves/loose curls.
(Webu / yurume no ka̅ru ni shite kudasai.)

Please only perm sections of my hair, not everything.
(Zenbu janakute, pointo dake de ii desu.)

Please only straighten my bangs.
(Maegami dake sutoreito pa̅ma o kakete kudasai).

Hair Setting/Make-up

(Showing a picture) Please style my hair like this.
(Kono shashin no yo̅ ni shite kudasai.)

I’d like an up-do.
(Appu hea sutairu shite kudasai.)

Please blow out my hair.
(Buro̅ shite kudasai.)

Please give me a popular style.
(Ninkina sutairu shite kudasai.)

I’d like eyelash extensions.
(Matsuge ekusute ga hoshii desu.)

(Showing a picture) Please do my make-up like this.
(Kono shashin no meiku no yo̅ ni shite kudasai.)

I want red/pink/matte/glossy lipstick.
(Reddo / pinku / matto / gurosu no rippu de onegai shimasu.)


5. Paying for Your Visit

Photo by Philip Taylor, Flickr

Please note that not everywhere in Japan accepts credit cards. While the popularity is growing, it is still possible that your salon will only accept cash. If this is an important factor in deciding your salon, it may be better to ask when making the initial reservation.

Customer: Do you accept credit cards?
(Kurejitto ka̅do wa tsukaemasu ka?)

Stylist: Yes, we do!
(Hai, daijoubu desu yo!)

I’m sorry, we don’t.
(Sumimasen ga, kurejitto ka̅do o uke tsukete orimasen.)

Unlike many Western countries, there is no tipping in Japan! Everything is included in the bill, so just pay and be on your way!

There’s all the basics! Hopefully this is everything you’ll need in order to have a relaxing, enjoyable time at your next salon visit. If you’re not sure about your pronunciation or are maybe afraid you’ll forget, it may be a good idea to print or bookmark this page to take to the salon with you. Better safe than sorry!