Around the world in 1,000 haircuts

Around the world in 1,000 haircuts

26-year-old Japanese hairdresser Jun Kuwabara cuts the hair of people passing by in a temporary street-side salon. Jun set out earlier this year to travel around the world & cut the hair of 1,000 people along the way.

Japanese hairdresser Jun Kuwabara cutting the hair of passers-by in a makeshift temporary streetside salon.


A very hairy journey

Jun Kuwabara is travelling the world and taking in the sights, all the while keeping his barber skills honed
Kaona Pongpipat

Armed with scissors and a comb, Japanese Jun Kuwabara set out earlier this year to travel the world and, while he's at it, cut the hair of 1,000 people. In a recent interview with Life, the 26-year-old hairdresser took us through the leafy and vibrant Rambuttri in the Khao San area to set up "a temporary salon".

After having worked as a hairdresser in Tokyo for six years, Kuwabara quit his job. For the past three months, streets, sidewalks, public gardens, riversides and beaches have acted as makeshift salons.

"I wanted to travel to other countries for the experience," said Kuwabara. "I have curiosity in people, food, culture and everything, so I decided to leave Japan. I wanted to do something while travelling, so I decided to cut 1,000 people's hair."

Kuwabara is three months into his journey and has given about 200 haircuts so far. All he carries with him is a small hairdresser belt for his appliances and a cover for people to wear while they have their hair trimmed — he often asks to borrow a chair from nearby shops or restaurants.  Recently, Instagram uploaded a story about his journey, causing Kuwabara's account's followers to skyrocket to 17,000 and counting.

"I've been to the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam and now is my second time in Thailand," he said, "I spent days in Chiang Mai. In the evening I went to Tha Pae Gate and gave about 30 haircuts to the local people, Japanese and European tourists."

It was while he was studying English at a language school in the Philippines where he had his first customer. He told a friend about his plan, who then agreed to have his hair cut by Kuwabara.

"It was right in front of the school," recounted Jun. "People were quite surprised and asked me why I was doing that. There were a lot of people surrounding us, but I'm not a shy person so I didn't mind."

In Bangkok, Kuwabara stayed at a cheap guest house near Khao San Road. In the evenings he would walk around the busy streets to find customers. But "customers" might not be the right word — a signboard Kuwabara also carries around informs people that the price of a  haircut is "up to you".

"You can give me however much you want," Jun explained. "Or you can give me food or beer instead. You don't have to give me anything if you don't want to. For children and disabled people, it's always free."

Jun said it's always difficult to find the first customer, but after that, with passers-by stopping to observe, it's much easier for the next to walk in.

"Whichever country I go, I ask the local people to help me write the signboard in that country's language. That makes it much easier for people to understand what I'm doing."

This is quite a shift in his working routine. In Tokyo, he worked hard all day, every day. Now, Kuwabara can work wherever and whenever he wants. It usually takes less than 15 minutes for each customer. From his swiftness, it's obvious that he trained in a salon for a long time.

"When I cut someone's hair, we build a good relationship," said Kuwabara. "If they can't speak English, I just use gestures, body language for telling how long or thin they want their hair cut."

Kuwabara said simply that he's been very happy with his experiences so far. One of the most memorable persons Jun has given a haircuit, he said, was a child in a Cambodian orphanage. It's not only about the haircut, but also the conversation Kuwabara had with him.

"He said he wanted to be a doctor when he grows up and that he would study hard," said Kuwabara. "What I felt is hard to explain. I guess I just feel happy because I can make people smile, especially when it's children."

One challenge Kuwabara has had so far is money. He's been living and travelling frugally on what he saved in Japan.

"I want to travel for a year," said Kuwabara. "From Thailand, I want to go to Malaysia, Nepal, India and then I don't know — maybe Europe, America and South Africa."

Another difficulty is the fact that Kuwabara has to be away from his girlfriend, who is waiting for him at home. Asked if he thinks she might break up with him at some point, he laughed and said he wasn't sure.

"I will ask her when I talk to her tonight,"  Kuwabara said, smiling.

Follow Jun Kuwabara's journey via his Instagram account @juuuuuuuun.

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  • appliance: a machine or piece of equipment that you have in your home, for example a washing machine or refrigerator - เครื่องใช้
  • armed: carrying a weapon - ติดอาวุธ
  • borrow: to take and use something that belongs to somebody else, and return it to them at a later time - ยืม
  • break up: when a boyfriend and girlfriend end a romantic relationship; to end a relationship -
  • challenge: something that needs a lot of skill, energy, and determination to deal with or achieve - สิ่งที่ท้าทาย, การท้าทาย
  • cheap: costing little money or less money than you expected - ถูก
  • comb (noun): a flat piece of plastic or metal with a row of thin teeth along one side, used for making your hair neat - หวี
  • conversation (noun): when two or more people are talking about something - การสนทนา, การพูดคุย
  • culture (noun): the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group - วัฒนธรรม
  • curiosity: a strong desire to know about something - ความอยากรู้
  • disabled: someone who has a condition, especially a physical one, that limits their activities in some way - คนพิการ
  • experience (verb): to have something happen to you or to live through some event - ประสบ
  • frugally: spending very little money and only things that are really necessary - ประหยัด
  • gesture: a movement that communicates a feeling or instruction - ลักษณะท่าทาง
  • grow up: becoming an adult or a mature and wise adult as one grows older -
  • haircut (noun): a reduction in the value of debt bonds owed, with the effect that investors who have loaned money lose part of the eventual repayment of the amount owed; same as "write-down" -
  • hone: to develop and improve something, especially a skill, over a period of time -
  • inform: to tell somebody about something, especially in an official way - แจ้งให้ทราบ
  • interview: to ask someone questions in a meeting for a newspaper article, television show, etc. The noun form is also interview - สัมภาษณ์, การสัมภาษณ์
  • journey: travelling from one place to another, especially when they are far apart - การเดินทาง
  • leafy: full of leaves - ปกคลุมไปด้วยใบ, เต็มไปด้วยใบ
  • local: in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น
  • makeshift: used temporarily for a particular purpose - ซึ่งทดแทนชั่วคราว, สำหรับใช้ชั่วคราว
  • memorable: likely to be remembered or worth remembering - ซึ่งมีค่าน่าจดจำ, โดดเด่น
  • observe: to watch or study someone or something with care - สังเกตการณ์
  • obvious: clear; easy to see, recognise or understand - ชัดเจน
  • orphanage: a place where children without parents live and are taken care of - สถานที่เลี้ยงเด็กกำพร้า, สถานที่รับเลี้ยงเด็กกำพร้า
  • passers-by: a person who is going past somebody - ผู้คนผ่านไปมาตามถนน
  • public: open to people in general; intending to be seen or heard by people in general - อย่างเปิดเผย
  • recent: happening or starting a short time ago - เร็วๆ นี้
  • recently (adverb): not long ago - เมื่อไม่นานมานี้, เมื่อเร็วๆ นี้
  • recount: to describe how something happened; to tell a story - เล่า, บรรยาย
  • relationship: the way in which two people, groups or countries behave towards each other or deal with each other - ความสัมพันธ์
  • routine: the normal order and way in which you regularly do things - กิจวัตรประจำ
  • salon: beauty salon - ร้านเสริมสวย
  • save: keep money to for use in the future, not spending now - ออม
  • scissors (noun): a tool for cutting paper or cloth, that has two sharp blades with handles, joined together in the middle - กรรไกร
  • set out: to go from a place; to start a journey or travel -
  • shift: a change in something - การเปลี่ยน
  • shy: nervous and embarrassed in the company of other people, especially people who you do not know - ขี้อาย
  • sidewalk (noun): a flat part at the side of a road for people to walk on - ทางเดิน, ฟุตบาท
  • skill: the ability to do something well, usually as a result of experience and training - ฝีมือ, ทักษะ
  • skyrocket: to increase very quickly - ลอยขึ้นสูงอย่างฉับพลัน
  • surrounding: all around a place - บริเวณรอบๆ
  • swift: happening quickly - อย่างรวดเร็ว  โดยด่วน
  • temporary: done or used for only a limited period of time, i.e., not permanent - ชั่วคราว
  • temporary: existing, done or used for only a limited period of time - ชั่วคราว
  • temporary: for a limited time; not permanent - ชั่วคราว
  • temporary: intended to be for a short time only; not permanent - ชั่วคราว
  • temporary: used or done for only a limited period of time, i.e., not permanent - ชั่วคราว
  • temporary accommodation: a place for someone to stay, live, or work for a short period of time - ที่พักชั่วคราว
  • trained: having received special instruction - ฝึกหัดมาแล้ว
  • trim: to make something neater, smaller, better, etc, by cutting parts from it - ตัด
  • up to you: you decide (I will not decide for you) -
  • vibrant: lively and exciting - ซึ่งมีชีวิตชีวา
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