{Tokyo} Insolite Salon

This is a travel post about hair. If you don’t care about hair, I’d suggest drooling over pictures of Jiro’s sushi or cooking up a simple frittata. Back to food soon enough, but I just had to share a little more about my visit to Japan!

This is a picture of me in a crowded Tokyo toy store surrounded by Furbys a day before getting my hair done, standing next to someone who is clearly not Japanese.

As the owner of a head of Asian hair, one of the things I looked most forward to on my trip to Japan was getting my hair done. Tokyo is full of beautiful people with amazing hair and incredible wardrobes, so I’ve spent the first couple of days here forgetting that most Asians have naturally black hair and starting to think I need to add false eyelashes with feathers on them to my daily routine. I also now think it barbaric to have to sit on unheated toilet seats that don’t include noisemakers, air fresheners or adjustable bidet jets.

The last time I got my hair cut with a new stylist at a trendy beachside salon back home, I asked the stylist what she would do if there was anything she could do to my hair. She said, “The Rachel. Your hair is perfect for that.” which, 1) I know to be untrue, 2) the Rachel should not be suggested in 2012 and 3) should have sent me running immediately. But I was feeling adventurous and said, “Not the Rachel, but do what you think would look best.” What I know now is that if you’re Asian and you say that, you will get a local news anchor haircut, not like Connie Chung circa 1985.

I went home, cut some choppy layers into my hair and have been cutting my own hair ever since.

Sandra made me an appointment with Hiroshi Noda, or “Noda-san” at Insolite Salon in Hiroo. I decided to try color, since I had just cut my own hair two days before and figured that since I don’t speak Japanese, it would be easier not to have to try to mime “texturize” and “more volume here.” I’m not sure why I thought acting out color would be easier though.

Sandra, or San-do-ra, on the left, made my reservations for Insolite and Jiro’s sushi place. I am standing like a superhero.

The Salon is beautiful and everyone who works there has amazing hair. I felt an unfamiliar feeling…of hope.

The upfront communication was the hardest. A color swatch book came out, and without a clear outcome in mind, and through the English-speaking shampoo girl, I asked for a recommendation. I basically wanted to do something non-committal, since I knew I’d be poor at maintenance, like highlights that would grow out ok if neglected. After a game of charades we narrowed agreed to mix a couple of colors. Then:


Sandra and I shook our heads. “Color.”

Some Japanese and then, with a mimed snipping motion, “Cut-0?”

Exaggerated head shaking: “Color.”

Noda-san pulled out pieces of my hair. He asked about the last time I had a cut – a year ago? Clearly my hair indicated that I had spent the past year in a cave.

I giggled maniacally and confessed that I had just cut my hair two days ago. I think they were laughing at my hair.

I agreed to a cut.

The appropriately unflattering “before” picture. Noda-san is on the left, laughing at me. Noda-san’s hair is cool in real life but looks shocked in this picture.

I was given an arm rest that goes around your torso and across your lap, which I can only describe as a luxurious version of a Boppy pillow, and which was wonderful. I may start to bring one with me for any situation that requires me to be in a chair…because why should my arms be allowed to fall ever.

Noda-san wore a holster, which held more scissors than a preschool classroom. He fluffed my hair out and pointed to the longer straggly ends and said, “Jellyfish.” I was impressed with the vocabulary he possessed for mockery. He was quick, precise and, I was glad to see, employed a different technique from my own. His scissors were so sharp that I rarely saw him bring the blades together – the hair just fell on contact with a blade.

I wanted to say, “Can you rough it up a little? I want the layers to be a little more edgy” but instead I nodded and said “Domo arigato.” It was fine. People are always giving me conservative, age-appropriate haircuts (I blame my round face), and I’m always trying to get them to rough it up a little more. But I really liked the way he volumized the top of my hair, and his technique was very good. Plus, knowing an addict when he saw one, he gave me tips for the next time I cut my own hair.

Next, a crew put little plastic shower caps on my ears. I laughed because I’m immature. I asked Sandra if she had gotten those too and she said no, since she had highlights and I was getting allover color. Which is when I learned that that’s what we had agreed to. Which was fine; it’s only hair.

I was brought to a rinsing station and experienced the longest and most wonderful hair washing experience of my life. My face was tented with an aromatherapeutic gauze of my choice, followed by an amazing shampoo experience and a loooooong scalp massage. I was then brought back to my chair and given a second head and shoulder massage. Which is when I decided that I really needed to move to Japan.

Noda-san came back and dried and styled my hair. The color is great – it’s subtle enough to grow out without too much trauma, but visible enough that it warmed up my complexion a bit.

“After” – me and Noda-san. I know, you can’t tell from the picture that much happened but I got two massages and aromatherapy out of it!

In writing this post I discovered that Noda-san has a blog! Which features a bunch of models and shows and conspicuously (and wisely) excludes me and my shower-cap-covered ears from it.

So if you’re in Tokyo and looking for a pampering hair experience, I’d recommend Insolite. If you’re looking for the exact haircut you want, I’d recommend going to Insolite and speaking Japanese.

Insolite Salon

Green Core 1F 5-16-13 Hiroo Minami Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 
TEL 03-3280-1062 FAX 03-3280-6040


  • elise
    December 10, 2012 - 1:57 PM | Permalink

    What I would really love to know is,,,, just how many coats did you bring to Japan and can you help me pack for my next vacation? You look so stylish. Your hair also looks amazing and I love the boppy idea. We should introduce it to salons here.

    • December 10, 2012 - 5:00 PM | Permalink

      Ha, I only brought one cheap coat and one puffy vest…so I might just *say* that photos were taken on the same day…

  • Sandra
    December 14, 2012 - 6:06 PM | Permalink

    I canNOT believe that Noda-san has not blogged about us. And my hair looks so bad in that picture in Harajuku! My bangs are crazy. Now… Off to get my son’s haircut for $12.

    • December 18, 2012 - 9:48 PM | Permalink

      I’m sure he must have thought we were famous and has decided to protect our privacy! Re: your hair, it’s just the wind! From all the crinoline skirts in Harajuku!

  • December 18, 2012 - 3:54 PM | Permalink

    Your hair looks so great!! You’re adorable. Though I really thought it looked great “before” as well! I guess you just rock any kind of hair! I am the same as you and got really tired of middle-aged women cutting my hair to look exactly like theirs, so I cut my own for years. Now I have a great gal, but she’s a 35 minute drive away in another town. WORTH IT, if you ask me 😉 Which you didnt! But having a good haircut counts for a lot, doesnt it!

    • December 18, 2012 - 9:52 PM | Permalink

      Thanks so much, Sophie! You’re right about hair…if we lived nearer by we could just cut each other’s and have a giant delicious meal afterwards!

  • Sophie
    December 19, 2012 - 8:05 AM | Permalink

    Such an awesome idea!!

  • eriko
    January 8, 2013 - 3:52 AM | Permalink

    i was looking for that chicken recipe and ended up reading this. 🙂 reminded me that when we lived in japan i fondly remember going to the hair salon at the train station with my mom (she got the cut, not me… she cut my hair with a bowl back then because my dad insisted short hair was cute on girls). i remember- 1)how they gave massages and 2) how good the coffee was. now i didn’t actually experience the massage- but clearly i did have the coffee. which then reminded me of how we would go to a coffee bar that gave you your own little french presses and how i loved it. ummmm, i was 10 or 11! pretty hard to believe that my folks were just like- espresso for kids- why not? but hey, i turned out okay, though noticeably smaller than my sisters. i just got my hair cut in berlin on the fly. i think it’s an awesome thing to do on vacation. esp. if you’re not a control freak about your hair.

    • January 8, 2013 - 9:54 AM | Permalink

      Wow, I didn’t know you lived in Japan! I love getting my hair cut on vacation. The last time I was in Taiwan I got one that made me look like a male Japanese pop star. Still, it was fun. And the bowl cut will never go out of style, because bowls will always be around. I was also always a short-haired little girl, but I didn’t drink espresso. I do have a search box on the right hand side of the page — it’s a little hard to find, I should probably move it!

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  • Tracey
    January 23, 2015 - 4:03 PM | Permalink

    I just found your post (2015). What a great post! You are quite entertaining! (and pretty).

    Anyhoo, we are about to embark upon an adventure to Japan. We are meeting up with our daughter who is living there for a year teaching English to high school students. She is in a very rural area and there is no place to get a good hair cut and to get waxing. (What is waxing to an Asian)????

    Do you know if any of the salons in Tokyo have waxing?


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