Friday, July 22, 2005

The Sound of Hair and Oku-chan

The hair salon, "kami no oto" (Sound of Hair)

We had appointments with the hairstylist today, so we did not travel around with our rail passes. This hair salon is called, “Kami no oto,” or “the sound of hair.” I think that it could also be a pun for “the sound of God,” but I am not sure if I am overanalyzing the Japanese title. It is a new business, run by Yamamoto-san, Etsuko’s favorite hairdresser at her old salon, who decided to run her own shop. It is a small, but stylish hole-in-the wall hair salon, nicely decorated. Yoko had her hair cut while I did some computer work, and then Etsuko took me to the salon for my haircut. My hair was cut short, and the hairdresser did all sorts of extras you don’t find in the U.S, like having your scalp, shoulders, and neck massaged. Such things are forbidden in the States as an anti-prostitution measure, so that only licensed masseurs can touch people below the neck.

Yamamoto-san seemed quite surprised when she found out that barbers could not massage their clients in America. Anyway, she thinned out my top hair, using techniques I had never seen before, and expertly clipped away at my sides without using clippers, but rather the old-fashioned way, by scissors and comb.

How do you like my new haircut?

We met up with “Oku-chan,”one of Yoko’s friends since middle school. Now I believe that if you meet a friend you haven’t seen for a long time, then you don’t bring your spouse along. Let the two of you catch up with old times first before you introduce a new person. So I went to an Internet café to work on my blog while the two of them went to a coffee house. BTW, despite how technologically advanced this country is, finding an Internet connection is near impossible! I was away from the Internet for just a few days and what a backlog of email! I guess most people do their Internet surfing, emailing, and instant messenger through their cell phones while riding the subway, and so they don’t need desktop Internet connections. BTW, along the way, I saw an interesting clothing shop that specializes in American fashions. Talk about preserving culture from the past - did Beavis and Butthead run off to Japan?

Next, we all stopped at a French restaurant run by Inoue, one of her friend’s husbands. Think of it as a small bar, with the cooking done behind the counter. This restaurant, which he is the chef and owner, is Inoue’s night business. By day, he works at his father’s company, and by night he runs this restaurant. He was so busy that he hardly had time to talk to us, but he did pose for a group picture.

The tobacco from the chatting office lady customers was getting to me, so we decided to leave. We passed by a darts bar, and I suggested that we all enter. Hip-hop and R&B blared in the background. The customers were mostly young Japanese dressed casually in their latest American casual fashions. I would’ve thought I was in America except for the strange promotion going on in which a female staff member wearing a high school uniform was selling I.W. Harper whisky. Japanese men love costumed women and so Hawaii must market Halloween to Japanese tourists more! By coincidence, I was going to drink whisky since my stomach was so bloated with food, so I ordered a drink. When you ordered I.W. Harper you could reach into a box and pull out a lottery. I reached in and won a set of darts! I took a picture with the costumed staff member, who named herself, “Peace”.

Here is a pic of another cute and bubbly staff member, who also taught us how to throw darts properly:

We spent most of the night playing darts. Oku-chan is good, hit many difficult shots, won most of the games, and claimed to be a beginner. Yeah, right...

On the way back, we plopped into a ramen shop at 2:00 at night for a final snack. The woman next to me noticed I was speaking in English to Yoko, and so she started talking to us in English. She had attended high school in the U.S. for two years, one year in Washington (two hours from Seattle in the countryside) and one year in Arizona. She was now in her late twenties, and lamented how she had no chance to practice her English. She seemed very drunk, and did not touch her ramen at all, but was only drinking beer. In fact, she was so drunk that she could not even press my camera button when she took my picture. Still, she was very pleasant to talk to, and seemed to have a good heart. It is amazing how you meet English-speaking people in the least likely of places.

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