Why do hairdressers Nimaime-no-meishi activities in the Philippines?
My report after accompanying the Hasaminochikara (Power of Scissors) project
I have worked for about eight and half years as an editor at a beauty magazine publisher. I retired from there last February, and have been working as freelance writer and editor.
While I was an editor, I met many hairstylists. Among them, there were a group of people who told me that they went to the Philippines for volunteer work. The name of their group was “Hasami-no-chikara” (which means “Power of scissors”.) Working as Nimaime-no-meishi activity, the hairstylists use their professional skills to help others.
— In Japan, Pro bono activity is called as Nimaime-no-meishi style. Nimaime-no-meishi practically means “a second business card”. In this style, people have two business cards; the first one is for professional business work and the second is for social activities. “Nimaime” implicates “smart people” as idiom.
Whenever I would have a drink with them, they always talked about Hasaminochikara. Even as they got tipsy, they were still very seriously and passionately talking about the children in the Philippines, and what they can do for them through Hasaminochikara.
A hairstylist’s job is really hard. They have to train themselves after work. Even on an off-day, they often spend their time at work skill seminars. I used to wonder when they can rest. And despite having such little free time, they then spend their own money to go to the Philippines and help. I’ve wondered what motivates them so strongly.
What is Hasaminochikara? Why are they so attracted by it? I wanted to know since I heard about this volunteer work. I have always wished to go with them and see with my own eyes that activity which they are so proud of. This year, I could go and see at last.
What is Hasaminochikara?
It is a vocational training and skill development program by NPO “Action.” In the Philippines, you can become a hairstylist without a license as long as you have the skill. By teaching young boys and girls Japanese hair cutting techniques we can help them achieve financial independence.
Hasaminochikara toured through orphanages and poverty area, their entirely volunteer staff giving hair-cut lessons as they went. This time I was able to accompany them.
A haircut filled with spirit, and that will bring enjoyment to these children
Once I got out of the airplane, it felt like I was in a sauna. I had heard that the Philippines was hot, but it was more than I imagined. I’m weak in the heat, so couldn’t help complaining. The first day’s destination was the Jaira Home and it took five hours by car.
Roads in the Philippines are not well maintained like in Japan and our car bounced up and down. Our driver drove aggressively, overtaking cars ahead. It was like riding a race car. I hear a hairstylist says “I never got car sick before…” We all felt exhausted.
When we arrived at Jaira Home, it was after 7pm. But our hairstylists had no time to relax, and soon the orphanage was filled with the sounds of hair being cut.
The children and hair stylists seemed to be cautious with each other at first. As time passes, I noticed they started to smile more. While hairstylists look very serious, the children were running around, frolicsome. Sometimes there were shy children who were always looking down, but I felt happy to see each child’s unique personality.
The hairstylists were soaked in sweat. Watching them cutting children hair, I felt from them not tension, but more like a strong spirit of determination; determination to make these children happy.
With beauty skill, we can help the world
The 2nd day, I was walking to a breakfast hall and met a hairstylist. I asked her why she joined Hasaminochikara this time.
“I was always interested in volunteer work, and ways to help world with my professional skill. I found out that there are several organizations using hair-cutting to help. The reason I chose Hasaminochikara was that it was the only project not just cutting children’s hair but teaching children how to cut. It has an academy set up to teach children how to cut hair. I was attracted with that. “
This hairstylist came from New York and flew through Korea. I came from Japan. She must have paid a lot more than me and took many more hours. I was envious of her. She can believe in her technique and use it to make a difference.
Philippine children love Hasaminochikara
After breakfast we headed to the Baraibai primary school in a resettlement zone. I heard Japanese hairstylists were going to cut the hair of 200 children there. There were 20 of them, so one hairstylist will cut about 10 children.
The cutting area was outside, not inside of primary school. The temperature was like the middle of summer in Japan. We set out 20 chairs. The children were trying to grab chairs. Hairstylists were soaked in sweat again.
Checking out the Japanese hair catalog, the children decided on their favorite hair style. The girls seemed to like curly hair. While the girls were getting their hair curled by the iron, the boys grabbed the water spray and ran around spraying each other. I felt that girls seemed to be more mature everwhere.
Five to six children were surrounding the hairstylists and watching their cutting hand with shining eyes. After a hair cut the child would check his or her style very carefully in mirror. The Japanese hairstylists cut seriously but they also seemed to be enjoying the moment.
In the end, they had cut for two hundred ninety children, way above estimation. The hairstylists must have been exhausted and yet looked fresh and satisfied with what they could do to make the children happy. Their faces looked healthy and cheerful, like someone who has recovered from an illness.
They just cut, cut, and cut without thinking too much. They must have been tired but fulfilled at the same time.
Experience you can’t get by studying
There was one college student who joined this tour. He got a license while attending college. His hairstylist father recommended him strongly. He told me he joined anxiously by himself.
On the first day, he told me “if anyone would like to be cut very short by clippers, then I can do it. That is the only cut I practiced.” I was then curious when, on the second day, I saw him cutting with scissors.
“I thought I can only do clipper short cut. But a child asked me a style from catalogue, so I tried. Then I could do it. After that, I just cut, cut, and cut. I’m glad I came and tried it. If I just went college, I couldn’t have such an experience!”
He talked to me very excitingly. I thought he looked cool.
He came here with anxiety but challenged himself to cut with scissors not with clippers. What he must have felt when he overcame his anxiety and succeeded? Not just heard something on the internet, or from someone else. He came here and could feel that there is something he can do by himself. He must have gained a lot of confidence about himself.
Faces I can’t forget with Hasaminochikara
To be honest, this two night and three day trip was a little hard for me. For example, there were no bathroom seats in bathroom. No toilet paper either, so you need to carry your own paper everywhere. No hot water, so I had to clean my body with water saved in the tub. I was so used to live in hygienic Japan and felt homesick. I said to myself a number of times that I would not come back next year.
But after I came back to Japan, strangely, I often recall the childrens’ smiles and hairstylists’ smiles too. Then I realized, “Yes, I wish to see their faces. Not the faces when they are cutting hair for business, but the faces they have when they’re using Hasaminochikara (power of scissors) to help others and make them happy.
What kind of face do Japanese hairstylists make when they cut in the Philippines? Children in the Philippine smake what kind of face when they receive the hair cut? I wanted to see their faces and feel the atmosphere when their hearts touch each other. Now I feel that I would like to go again next year. I wold like to see their faces once again and feel even deeper.
Your power, your reason to exist
After I went with them, I think our hairstylists simply enjoy using their abilities and skills help others.
Those Japanese hairstylists like to see other people smile. Their power becomes someone else’s power. Someone’s smile will help them smile. They could be looking for the reason for their existence through Hasaminochikara.
They can connect with everyone in the world with their scissors. I truly envy them that they have such skill. They are trying to help the world with their scissors and their skill. I think they are really wonderful.
There must be some hairstylists who wonder if they can use their skill for something other than salon work. If such hairstylists join in Hasaminochikara, they can start understanding where they stand and what they can do.
If I didn’t know Hasaminochikara and had never met these hairstylists who are in this project with passion and pride, I would have been repeating any monotonous days.
Ever since coming back from the Philippines, I often ask myself “is there anything I can do for others?” I’m also one of those people whose life Hasaminochikara has changed a little bit for the better.