A Foreign Fade

The sign on the outside reads “Ponytail.”

Inside sits a petite man on his computer surfing the latest hologram music videos of Michael Jackson. His wife exits through the back door of the shop into their home to put away fresh vegetables.

Day by day, my hair continues to grow, and the hand-carved, wooden sign “Ponytail” nags at my mop each time I stroll past. If I had owned a set of clippers, I would have tested my own skill for the chop.

It had been a long day of practice, a fun morning at a kid’s camp, and it was time for the hair to get a renovation. “Ponytail” it was.

The quaint style of the home-owned hair shop down the street from my apartment is inviting and friendly. Fresh flowers line the front entryway, and I notice a small Japanese man blurrily through the glass door smiling at me.


Miniature hanging bells ring through my ear, as the door swings open. A man I affectionately call “Kenji the ponytail barber” greets me, ushering me into a cozy seat.

The two shop chairs sit empty as I quickly realize his English is a boatload better than my Japanese. I sit in the chair and delightfully chat with him about the Taylor Swift music playing softly in the background, the difference between an American barber and Japanese barbers, and the possibility of him being able to cut my hair. My eyes keep wandering around at the different artifacts and materials he uses and keeps in his shop. There is a UFO space bulb hanging from a trapeze attached to the ceiling that looks like it just landed from Mars.

I could tell by the way Kenji talked that he was proud of his shop and all his clients that came through. He had lists of 974421_10152559033697669_1055891553_nfemales from all different countries whose hair he had cut and styled; yet, no mention of any males. (Hence the name ponytail on the outside.) He soon admitted he rarely if ever cuts any guy’s hair.

I had arrived at a “ladies” shop :/… but his friendliness and his wife’s charm kept me seated.

After scrounging through his drawers to find clippers and necessary tools to cut my hair, he assured me he could do it –and I trusted him.

He had a small video camera in one hand and scissors in the other, recording footage of the whole new experience. I felt as if the paparazzi had shown up in eager anticipation to see what hairstyle I was going to end up with. His grin was heart-warming, and his passion and enthusiasm for what he was doing was transparent.

The hair fell freely to the ground as he began to fade the sides of my head. His clippers had no guard; meaning one slip up would embellish me with a slick new bald spot. His skill was extreme as his swiped from left to right, fading my edges.

10807078_10152605210467669_1389225342_nAfter asking for my music requests, he begins to play my favorite songs throughout his shop. Not a smart idea! Instinctively, I begin to bob my head to the rhythm of the songs, and he has to keep reminding me I am getting a hair cut with no guard. I guess this would be like skiing a Black Diamond in hair-cutting terms. His wife passes in and out of the shop to their adjacent house, listening to our conversations in the background. She, too, chimes in every now and then and surprises me with her knowledge of English.

My haircut looks clean and crispy as “Kenji the Ponytail barber” spins me around to show off his American style finished product. I am impressed. So is Kenji’s wife, as she compliments, “You are handsome now.”

Yet little did I know… the full Japanese haircut experience was not finished. He wheels me around and drops the UFO object over my head. There were red lights flashing all around as if it were about to abduct the top of my head or take an X-ray of my scalp. Not knowing what to do, I sat there awkwardly and let the strange machine do its thing… Don’t ask me what it did? My hair wasn’t dryer, smoother, sexier, or a different color after it was done running its course. I guess I just got that deep fiber good hair…

Before we say our good byes, his wife brings out a fresh bag of farm-grown oranges for me to devour over the next coming weeks – and Kenji Ponytail informs me of the good energy they will provide me. He was right! Boy, were they delicious!

The people I have met in Japan have been so kind and giving. They go out of their way to make sure one feels appreciated.

Fans and supporters wait after our practices to offer small gifts or snacks for the players to enjoy. After games the giving and love is amplified!

Since that day at the barber, I have made a new friend. It doesn’t matter if he is 40 years older than me and lives 9,000 miles away from America. I have tried to make it a habit that every time I walk past his quaint shop to peep my head in and say hello to my new buddy.


8 thoughts on “A Foreign Fade

  1. Drewby-
    You can make a good day complete, an ok day better, and a bad day great! It seems like every time I am reading your stories, I seem to be in Starbucks working!! If anyone is watching me when I am reading them, I have this constant smile on my face and I’m sure they are wondering what I am smiling about or wishing they could read what. I’m reading!! Thanks for always making a good day complete, an ok day even better and a bad day great!!!
    So glad you are doing well!! Miss you! Xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great snapshot Drew. Keep the cool stories coming. Once I was in Tabago in the Caribbean and saw a local guy with some NBA jersey on and began talking to him about basketball. When I mentioned I was a rabid Gonzaga fan he lit up like a light bulb and said “Ronny Turiaf”! He shared that Ronny is a cult hero in all the Caribbean islands and they follow the Zags to this day. Very cool.

    My son’s buddy who was a Japanese foreign exchange student met me in my garage for the first time and he was only here about two weeks by that time. I asked him if he is adjusting to the USA well and he said yes except for the toilets. J He stayed through his entire high school years and never went back to Japan. His wealthy parents are very unhappy about it, but he says life here is just so much more fun. Interesting. He is 35 now and still in Spokane, go figure.

    I lost my son four years ago and he was really devastated and expressed so much love for him. They are kind people.

    Have fun and keep the stories coming buddy. Love em

    Bob in Palm Desert, CA


  3. Drew this is uncie…loved the blog and I know Kenji appreciates it too!!! So happy they’re taking good care of you there. 君がいないのでみんなとても寂しく思っている

    Liked by 1 person

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