After spending more than ten years working in London and Tokyo, Fukuoka local Hiro Nagaoka has returned to his roots and recently opened Shiki Hair Salon in Kiyokawa, a rather quiet neighborhood just off of Watanabe-dori in south Tenjin and just minutes on foot from Watanabe-dori Subway Sta. The area is best known amongst locals for its bars and restaurants, so one might be surprised to find a hair salon on the second floor of the Lassic building, a former apartment building and now home to small creative offices. The entrance is tucked away off the back of a parking lot but easily recognizable by a huge, colorful mural.
Once inside the salon, customers are greeted by a warmly lit interior, thanks to the low-hanging incandescent light bulbs that complement the chic industrial interior. White walls are offset with partitions of concrete, and colorful art pieces – created by a friend of Hiro’s – add a modern and personalized touch. In stark contrast to the urban salon, a sliding shutter that encompasses the back wall of the small space opens up to reveal a gorgeous view of the Naka River, giving a peaceful, sanctuary-like atmosphere to the place.
Hiro Nagaoka, the owner of Shiki Hair Salon, wants everyone to feel welcome here, and thanks to his easy-going personality, you’ll feel immediately at ease. His philosophy is simple: hair is an expression of the self – much like clothes are a form of showing one’s personality, your hair should do the same. Thus, the name Shiki came about, as the word can mean both ‘color’ or ‘four seasons’ in Japanese, this duality reflecting his ideology perfectly. Seasons have their colors, much like people are all unique and characters come in all shades and nuances. Hiro values a personal approach, taking care to get to know his clients to give them the best possible consultation and service and to help let their colors shine.
Years of experience at various salons in both Japan and London have brought him to this point. Having honed his craft at the famed Vidal Sassoon Academy in London, he continued to expand his knowledge and techniques at other well-known salons such as Radio, as well as gigs at London Fashion Week and working on photo shoots – it’s safe to say that Hiro can handle any hair type. Whether Asian, Western, African, straight, curly, smooth, or coarse, he is able to offer advice (in fluent English) on care, styling, and of course, give suitable cuts and treatments. He also offers a variety of perms, straightening, color and color placement such as Balayage, a special technique for highlighting hair to make it look multidimensional and naturally sunkissed – it’s not easy to find this service in Japan, but it’s a favorite among Western celebrities. When it comes to color, Hiro relies on Olaplex, a hair protecting product which Western professionals swear has revolutionized hair dyeing, but most Japanese salons still don’t know about.
Hiro employs both Japanese and western techniques, depending on customers’ wants and needs. Japanese hairdressers tend to have a very laissez-faire approach to cutting hair, which is why styles are often a little messy and feathery in appearance, while the European technique is much more clean, prioritizing lines and layers, regardless of whether the cut is modern or classic. Hiro relies on mainly imported products to achieve the perfect hairstyle, such as products from Italian company Organic Way, or O-Way. As the name indicates, the products are all organic, using a high concentration of botanical ingredients grown at the company’s farm estate of Ortofficina in Bologna. This results in biodynamically grown, fair-trade, and low-waste products that are not only effective but also smell absolutely divine.
I can happily attest to this as my hair felt silky smooth after my cut and hours later at dinner, two women I had never met before complimented my haircut and proceeded to smell my hair for a good five minutes! I went in for a simple cut, but what I got out of the experience was so much more. After offering me a selection of drinks such as tea, coffee, cappuccino (from his Italian DeLonghi machine), we talked about the look I wanted to achieve. It was nice to be able to communicate with Hiro in pera-pera English, and he quickly understood the aesthetic I was going for. I hadn’t come in with an idea of what I wanted, but he soon discovered what suits me.
As he washed and cut my hair, we bonded over stories of travels, fashion, art, music, and food, exchanging tips and anecdotes. Despite his impressive resumé, he doesn’t put on airs, and he is warm, engaging, and interested; I felt immediately comfortable like I was already a regular customer. When it came to styling, I realized not just the haircare products at Shiki are top-notch, so are the styling tools. Hiro uses the Dyson Supersonic hairdryer and GHD heat stylers – basically the Ferraris of hair appliances. After drying and styling, Hiro made his final touches, trimming and adding any last touches where necessary – truly a perfectionist in the best sense.
I fully appreciate the careful and considerate service, and this, according to Hiro, is all the validation he needs. “Helping people to express their personality through hair and walking out of Shiki Hair Salon feeling relaxed and happy is the best feeling; that’s what makes me happy,” he said in his soft, sincere voice.
Oh, and yes, he does gents hair too!
Shiki Hair Salon
• Mon. ~ Wed.: 10:00~21:00, Fri. & Sat.: 10:00~22:00, Sun.: 10:00~20:00
• Closed: Thu. & 3rd Tue.
• 2-A Lassic, 2-1-21 Kiyokawa, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 10 min. on foot from Watanabe-dori Subway Sta., 12 min. on foot from Nishitetsu Yakuin Sta., 4 min. on foot from Nishitetsu Yanagibashi bus stop, 4 min. on foot from Nishitetsu Watanabe-dori 1-chome FM Fukuoka bus stop. Public parking is available nearby.
Report by Julie Scheurl for Fukuoka Now