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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ladies' Shaving


Ladies ShavingAh, the mysterious East. Zen. The sound of one hand clapping. The art of the geisha. Rock gardens. Female facial shaving.

Little known but true: many Japanese women shave. Not pluck. Not a mask treatment. Not laser hair removal--though they may do all of the above as well--but actual blade and cream shaving. And the service is also available, publicly, at barbershops throughout Japan.

The banner pictured hangs outside of a very ordinary Kyoto barbershop in any neighborhood Japan. The barber who runs the shop is, like most traditional barbers, elderly.

Above the model's head, it reads:

Basic Beauty Salon Treatments. Facial Shaving

Ladies' Shaving

After years of observation, I have now reached the point where I think I can detect a freshly shaved upper lip. It gleams every so slightly, with perhaps a purplish tint--and is absolutely lacking in hair and follicles.

Barbershops in Japan also of course shave men, and in places my barbers in Philadelphia, Victor and Angelo, never would have touched. Among them: ear lobes, the ridges of the ear, the forehead, the hair line at the temple (to shape it just so). The first time a Japanese barber went at my ears with a razor was somewhat terrifying. I didn't know enough Japanese at the time to tell him to stop; however, the sensation of the cold steel of the blade in the old man's firm hands felt good as he dragged it along my ear lobes. Now most barbers have an electric tool for that purpose--small and barrel-shaped, it is the size of perhaps the head of a q-tip, though thicker, and spins and whirs as it scythes down unwanted ear hair--and only use the straight-edged razor to do a traditional shave and the back of the neck.

Returning to the question of female facial shaving, Why? An American (female) friend who now unabashedly gets lathered at the local beauty parlor explains: your skin feels like it did when you were 18.

Another possibility has to do with hairiness. As a trip to the public bath or hot spring will attest, the Ainu Caucasoid gene has definitely made itself felt in many Japanese: they are hairier than other Asians.

Still, a shave at a barbershop? For a woman? As the Japanese expression goes: 餅は餅屋 (mochi wa mochiya; for a rice cake go to the rice cake maker). In other words: best to leave it to a pro.

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