How does a $4 haircut compare to a $200 haircut in Tokyo?

Originally published at: How does a $4 haircut compare to a $200 haircut in Tokyo? | Boing Boing


You start adding things like face massages to the service, that sorta defeats the point of comparing the prices of the actual haircuts.

I’ve had some inexpensive barbers pay close attention to my eyebrows and even plucked ear hair, so those are always the keepers.


My question is: how the hell does a barbershop in Tokyo survive giving $4 haircuts? (Even if they manage 3 an hour, it’s not a living wage for the staff plus business costs.) I wonder if the haircuts were being provided by students? (In which case the price defrays costs being paid by someone else, rather than being the actual revenue.) I don’t see how they could manage, otherwise.


I started going to a new barber shop in town where they charge $17 for a haircut; less than half than what I was paying at the previous salon. Here’s the kicker…on my first visit I noticed that they had a glass-door fridge that was stocked with soft drinks and beer. I said “You sell beer here?” She responded, “No, we can’t legally sell beer without a liquor license so the beer is free. A Pepsi will cost you $2 though.” With that, I grabbed a free beer and enjoyed the haircut. It’s my go-to place now. I always leave a handsome tip.


It’s hard to believe you can get a nice haircut in Tokyo, but this scruffy-haired guy did.

I need more info on this statement. I would think one could get a nice haircut in any major city - and probably in any minor city as well.
What don’t I understand?


In was wondering the same. Tokyo is a fashion capital, surely it should surprise no one that you can get a good hair cut there.

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I can’t ever see paying 200 bucks for a haircut.

But how do either one compare to the free one I get at home from my wife who just learned from YouTube videos 3 years ago.

I would always just drive to the first barber or salon that had no wait, if I got a decent cut I would go back until that person moved on. 12 to 15 bucks with at least a 5 buck tip. Not bad every 6 months.

My dad went to the barber college in Detroit for 2 dollar haircuts until he retired.

I had a corner barber for years from the time I was about 12 until my 30s until he passed away. That was a good old fashioned barbershop. 2 chairs no waiting, single edge razor and hot lather for neck and sideburns.

I never did get my haircut records though.

I know how Al felt when his barber died.

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Typo, basically: Mark just left off the words “for $4” in that sentence. From context, it should read

It’s hard to believe you can get a nice haircut for $4 in Tokyo, but this scruffy-haired guy did.

Since the second paragraph begins

Meanwhile, his shaggy-haired pal went to an upscale salon, where a haircut goes for $200.

(Also, the headline sets up the price comparison in the first place. I did do a double take on that first sentence, just like you did, though.)

I liked Kai’s shaggy surfer dude style at the beginning. It reminded me of Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted. He did look pretty hot after the $4 cut. Money well spent.

As to the economics of the salon, Japan has a lot of reserved commercial property near railway stations. Usually called “shotengai” streets, they are designed to accommodate small, local family run businesses at low rents, subsidised by the town council. I’m guessing the super cheap salon is on one of those.


My Dad used to go to a cheap place - Saw the place on the news one night and found out it was a front for a cocaine ring. They did do actual haircuts, but that’s not what kept the place open. (Canada, not Japan)

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The sign that lists prices says 690 Yen for a haircut only on weekdays between noon and two o’clock. Other times, it is 980 yen. Also, 690 Yen is over five dollars. The 490 Yen one is just to have them shave your head with electric clippers, which only really takes minute, and is not what the guy gets in the video.

The prices also go up for shampoo service and perms and whatnot. You can see the price list at 1:08 on the video.


A friend was a receptionist for a business that did… absolutely no business. She always figured it was a front for something. I had never considered barber shops as potential fronts, but…

Still… it’s not enough more to make a difference.

This might explain it more - it’s probably effectively a senior discount (the other patrons seemed to be significantly older).

That might explain it, too. If they cater primarily to women, the expectation might be that most of their customers will be opting for enough “extras” that the financials actually work out. The haircut itself becomes a loss-leader…

Is tipping customary there for haircuts? maybe the $4 haircuts pay the overhead and the staff gets good tips?

My understanding is tipping isn’t customary for much of anything in Japan. (Even if it was, tipping is usually a percentage of the cost of the service, which wouldn’t add much.)

There’s generally no tipping in Japan. The main exception is if you stay at a ryokan (traditional style inn) you should give your maid a small gift, preferably something food related from your home.

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Ive had the restaurant staff chase me down to return the tip I left. Seems they took my tip as an insult.


From the restaurant’s perspective, any cash that you leave behind belongs in the lost and found, and lost and found is its own set of hassles.

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