I recently moved back to the states, from living in Tokyo, Japan. Many of whom I have talked to since I’ve been back, asked many questions about my travels. I do get lots of comments related to my hair.
“Did you get a lot of Japanese people asking about your hair?”
“You must have attracted crowds with your hair.”
“How did they like your hair?”
First let me state; everyone’s experience is different. I have heard and read blogs of how it is for a redhead living in Japan, or any other East Asian country and all have different experiences.
You will be surprised or not, Japanese people react to red hair less so than they do to blonde. Blonde is still highly desired in Asia, so I was simply just stared at. At first it didn’t bother me, but because I grew up with people staring at me. However, it was a different kind of staring. No comments, no smiles, just eyes constantly watching me. I didn’t like the whispers and shifty eyes back and forth from me, and then to someone else. I became very self-conscious and constantly rubbing my face, thinking I had something wrong with me.
When you sit down in a beauty salon, then you get the comments. The same comments that you get everywhere. However, because Japanese people get nervous of all foreigners, they usually don’t ask or talk about your hair. It takes awhile for them to get the courage to ask. For me, I was asked if my hair was real, and how pretty it was. However, it is usually the blondes that get chased down and asked about their hair, and to get their photos taken. I was never asked for a photo. I got stares and silence. After a couple of years, I started missing the compliments. The silent stares started getting to me, and I dreaded getting on the trains filled with people.
However, the good thing about being a redhead in Tokyo Japan, is how easy it was for my friends to find me. Plus, I rarely was the victim of racism or being mistreated as a foreigner. Growing up redheaded you learn to ignore and drown out the negative comments. I was so used to ignoring people talking badly, I was able to live peacefully among the haters. As for my fellow blonde and brunette haired Americans were cursing irritably over the smallest curse that they would get from a Japanese Salary-man or grandma.
If you are a redhead, natural or not, and see yourself going to East Asia, do not fear. You will most likely be treated better than your blonde or brunette friends. Red hair is so rare over there, they just don’t know how to express themselves. Most likely they will love it and want to touch it.
And, while you’re at it, watch this redhead’s guide on what not to do when visiting Japan:
Rock it like a Redhead!