Yoshiko Morimoto

Yoshiko Morimoto

Director, Afrodita hair salon


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on June 2011

Courtesy Afrodita

How long have you been in Japan?
I was born and raised here and apart from the 12 years I spent in the US and the UK, I’ve been here pretty much the whole time.

Where did you learn the art of hair styling?
I spent three years in New York and London learning hair styling and makeup, after which I was offered a position in a beauty salon in Beverly Hills where I worked for nine years.

How did Afrodita get started?
I wanted to take what I’d learned and offer similar high-end services to both foreign and Japanese people back home, but without the huge fees charged at the salons in the most exclusive parts of the city. Setting up Afrodita in my home town of Yokohama just seemed to make sense. I knew that here I’d be able to deliver Beverly Hills styling but without the huge overheads, which meant that I could keep my prices affordable for my customers.

What percent of your clients are foreigners? Did you specifically want to attract foreign clients to your shop?
Around 30% of our clients are foreigners, maybe a little less now as many people left Japan after the recent earthquake. Yes, I really wanted to work with foreign clients—it’s interesting to meet many kinds of people with different hair, tastes and lifestyles. It’s also satisfying to be able to help foreign clients who may have a lot of trouble getting what they want or making themselves understood in many of the hair salons in Japan where the staff don’t usually speak much English. I really like to help foreign clients—I even import hair products from overseas just so they can get that “back home” type service!

What should foreigners look for in an English-speaking salon? Do all of your staff speak English?
The most important things are good communication and good results. It’s important for us to be able to create rapport with our clients so we can really get a clear understanding of what they want. Producing great results isn’t just about my skill level or what I think looks good: it’s about finding out what the client is really looking for, and creating a style they feel confident with that also suits their personality and lifestyle. I always think it’s great when people bring in a picture of a style they like or tell me about what inspires them or how they see themselves… Getting that kind of information can really help to make that person’s haircut special. It’s also important to take care of the details so that our clients overall experience is that much more positive. That’s why we have staff who speak English and even a dedicated English phone number for our foreign clients to use when they make appointments—that way they don’t feel awkward.

We recently did a men’s grooming issue. What is your favorite hairstyle for men?
That’s a difficult question… for me it really depends on fitting the style to the person rather than the person to the style. That works a lot better than having a fixed plan for everyone. People have different types of hair, facial features, coloring, lifestyles, needs, etc., etc., so a really good style is something that takes all those things into consideration.

What’s the deal with hair salons closing on Tuesdays? Does that make Monday your Friday?
That’s just the way it’s been for as long as I can remember. It’s related to union rules. In Kanto, we’re usually closed on Tuesdays, and in Kansai it’s usually Mondays. But we hair stylists still often go out for a drink with other stylists or friends on Fridays, too: we work hard and play hard!

Which is correct (or which do you prefer): Hair stylist? Designer? Barber? Hair cutter? Hair dresser? Or something else?
From those I like “hair stylist” best, but our role is difficult to sum up because it changes with each client. We are a combination of stylist, counselor, image consultant, and friend, and sometimes we are teachers, too, because we teach clients about hair care, makeup and design. So it’s difficult to pin it down to just one title.

For more info visit www.yokohamahairsalon.com or tel: 045-311-0139 (English-speaking).