Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Of barbers and barber shops

My favorite barber passed away earlier this February. I only learned of this a couple of weekends ago and was a bit sad that I wasn't even able to visit the wake. I considered him a friend even though we met only on for my regular haircuts typically at the end of the month. However, "regular" here actually spanned roughly 30 years since I could remember as my father first took me to this makeshift barber shop at the Cainta Public Market sometime in 1983/84. The only significant break from the regular haircuts was in 1996-1999 when I was studying in Japan and I had my haircut at another barber shop.

I was introduced to this barbershop in the Meguro district of Tokyo in 1996 by one of my good friends. I helped that the barber shop was a few minutes walk away from the JR Meguro Station of the Yamanote Line and I could easily go there whenever I was in Tokyo. Being a creature of habit, I made the effort to go there for my haircuts even though I lived in Yokohama, a good 45 to 60 minutes away by train. My Nihongo wasn't really good so I always asked them about the pictures they had showing different haircuts in front, side and back so I could point to how I wanted them to cut my hair. I remember that I never had a bad haircut there and always got my money's worth. They even had a promotion where each haircut a customer was given a coupon indicating points earned. You could exchange the points for a haircut or perhaps items they had on display that you may exchange the points for. I still have the nail cutter and nose hair scissors that I got from accumulating so many points

I remember at least 3 barbers who usually gave me a haircut. One was a mute, one was a woman and another was a young man sporting long hair. I'm sure I picked up their names at one time but I forget them now though I do remember their faces. The last time I had a haircut there was in 2008 when I stayed in Japan for 1.5 months. That was good enough for 2 haircuts and again, I made the effort to travel the distance from Saitama to Meguro just for the haircut and shampoo that's always been my routine whenever I was there.

With all the changes in Tokyo from 2008, I wasn't sure that the barber shop would still be there when I made the trips to Japan from last year. I really didn't have time to go for a haircut last October as I wanted to re-explore Kamakura and Yokohama. This time though, with some time on my hands and feeling a bit sentimental because of the passing of my old barber, I decided to go around Meguro and check on the old barber shop there. I did find the old barber shop but it was closed and there was a sign there saying it had moved. I couldn't read Japanese well so I couldn't get the details from the sign. However, after crossing the street at the next junction and walking along the other side, I quickly found  where the barber shop had relocated - just across the street from its old location.

The old barber shop is now closed.

And that's because it had reopened just across the street from the old one.
Peeking inside, I happily saw that at least two of my old barbers were still there - the woman and the guy with the long hair. Surprisingly, they looked the same as when I had last been there in 2008. With this knowledge, I now look forward to the next time I could be in Tokyo and maybe have the time to get a haircut at Meguro.

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