Profiles

On the Road: Hannah Lee in Tokyo

When you are in a foreign country and don’t speak the native language, things become a bit difficult. But as I discovered on a recent trip to Japan, three is something to be said about the international language of nails. On my first night there (read more about my trip and nails in Japan in next month’s issue) I went out to dinner with more than 15 nailists from all over the country. Even though I speak very few Japanese words, I managed to communicate that I wanted to get my nails done while in Tokyo. Two of the girls who were sitting close to me handed me their cards (in traditional Japanese style—with both hands, while bowing). So there it was—even though they spoke only a few words of English, I had set up a nail appointment for the following Saturday afternoon.

I spent most of the day Saturday visiting different areas of the city—from the downtown shopping district of Ginza to the Senso-ji Buddhist temple in Asakusa. Walking through Tokyo is similar to being in New York City. The city is segmented into many different “districts” and each one has its own flavor. My appointment was at Oriental Nail Co. Ltd. near Asakusa. We scheduled the appointment late in the evening so that I would be the last client and we could all go out to dinner once my service was finished.

When in Japan, do what the Japanese do, right? Since colored acrylic designs are all the rage there, I figured I would get a set of design sculptured nails. Akiko Akui, who owns the salon, began working on my nails, creating a colorful, abstract design on several fingers on each hand. On the other fingers, nail manger Harumi Kato did sculptured pink-and-whites. While I felt like a VIP having my hands worked on by two techs, it turns out that this is the sort of service anyone can expect at Oriental Nail Co. The six nailists who work there often help each other out to speed up the service time.

While Japan has no formal license requirement, nailists are hungry for education. Many Japanese techs travel to California to obtain a U.S. license and then return to their homeland to open up salons and nail schools. All of the nailists at Oriental Nail Co., including Akiko, attend as many was busy attending trade shows in Nagoya and Tokyo, judging nail competitions, doing nail art demonstrations, and taking classes to further her own education—and she still found time to squeeze me in.

 

The atmosphere at Oriental Nail Co. was friendly and easy-going and my service was meticulous. After Akiko and Harumi finished my nails, we met the rest of our group for a traditional Japanese yakitori dinner of skewered meats and veggies. I finished the night off singing karaoke till dawn with new nails and new friends—despite the language barrier.  

When you are in a foreign country and don’t speak the native language, things become a bit difficult. But as I discovered on a recent trip to Japan, three is something to be said about the international language of nails. On my first night there (read more about my trip and nails in Japan in next month’s issue) I went out to dinner with more than 15 nailists from all over the country. Even though I speak very few Japanese words, I managed to communicate that I wanted to get my nails done while in Tokyo. Two of the girls who were sitting close to me handed me their cards (in traditional Japanese style—with both hands, while bowing). So there it was—even though they spoke only a few words of English, I had set up a nail appointment for the following Saturday afternoon.

I spent most of the day Saturday visiting different areas of the city—from the downtown shopping district of Ginza to the Senso-ji Buddhist temple in Asakusa. Walking through Tokyo is similar to being in New York City. The city is segmented into many different “districts” and each one has its own flavor. My appointment was at Oriental Nail Co. Ltd. near Asakusa. We scheduled the appointment late in the evening so that I would be the last client and we could all go out to dinner once my service was finished.

When in Japan, do what the Japanese do, right? Since colored acrylic designs are all the rage there, I figured I would get a set of design sculptured nails. Akiko Akui, who owns the salon, began working on my nails, creating a colorful, abstract design on several fingers on each hand. On the other fingers, nail manger Harumi Kato did sculptured pink-and-whites. While I felt like a VIP having my hands worked on by two techs, it turns out that this is the sort of service anyone can expect at Oriental Nail Co. The six nailists who work there often help each other out to speed up the service time.

While Japan has no formal license requirement, nailists are hungry for education. Many Japanese techs travel to California to obtain a U.S. license and then return to their homeland to open up salons and nail schools. All of the nailists at Oriental Nail Co., including Akiko, attend as many was busy attending trade shows in Nagoya and Tokyo, judging nail competitions, doing nail art demonstrations, and taking classes to further her own education—and she still found time to squeeze me in.

The atmosphere at Oriental Nail Co. was friendly and easy-going and my service was meticulous. After Akiko and Harumi finished my nails, we met the rest of our group for a traditional Japanese yakitori dinner of skewered meats and veggies. I finished the night off singing karaoke till dawn with new nails and new friends—despite the language barrier.             

Keywords:   Japanese nail industry     On the Road  

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