‘Wax On, Wax Off’ Does Not Reflect Japan’s Waxing Situation by Charlotte Yates

Charlotte Yates is a student studying International Studies, majoring in Japanese, at Macquarie University, Sydney.Charlotte just completed a 4-month exchange at Tokyo Metropolitan University. She has blogged about this and her past travels at http://charurottonoburoggu.tumblr.com/ and http://charstravelblog.tumblr.com/

Japan’s stance on waxing in fact totally nullifies the famous Karate Kid quote, although to be fair, I’m pretty sure Mr Miyagi was not referring to unsightly hair. If you’re a shaver, then you’ll have no problem in Japan. But if you’re like me and have been cursed with the dark hairs of your ancestors, waxing is your best bet if you don’t want hairs peeking out again 12 hours later.

The sudden switch from a cool spring to a sweltering summer in Tokyo brought with it the quest to find a waxing salon. Setting out with my like-minded Caucasian friend, we pounded the streets in search of this mythical material to rid us of excess hair. With limited Japanese skills, we thought we stumbled across one and cried out in glee, visions of our hairless bodies already appearing. But upon entering the establishment we found out (in very broken Japanese), that it was in fact a laser hair removal place. Okay, I said, laser it off, even better. But in Japan, they love to have ‘counseling sessions,’ whether you’re getting laser, a beauty product, or a fake snaggle tooth at the dentist, which is seriously a thing now. Of course these places want your business, but the ‘counseling’ is a process (sometimes a long one) you have to go through to make sure you want to do whatever you’re doing. ‘No time for counseling,’ I said. ‘I can hardly speak Japanese.’ What if I get something wrong and she laser’s my eyebrow off? So after looking around even more my friend and I gave up and we decided to get very over-priced manicures.

My friend, much more able in Japanese than myself, discovered that Japanese people simply don’t wax. It’s either shave or laser. And most of them must laser because I do not see any stubble no matter how hard I look, only beautiful, perfectly smooth skin. After thanking the manicurist and bumping my nails so my expensive manicure was ruined beyond salvation, I did a quick search online to see what the deal is. I did actually find a couple of waxing salons in Tokyo itself (I was living about an hour from Tokyo) at the most outrageous prices. Average price for a Brazilian wax is around AUS$75 and a full arm wax around AUS$100 each. Strangely, these salons appear to offer even more areas for waxing than Australia, with offers for the breasts, butt cheeks, full face, neck and hips all options for waxing. But limitations to my student budget forced me to turn back to the ancient razor and curse Tokyo’s exorbitant waxing costs.