I first met Yosh Toya while I was a student at Pivot Point International Academy in Bloomingdale, Illinois. To help develop a strong future for beauty and to inspire cosmetology students, Yosh made a goal of visiting 100 beauty schools in the U.S. (having already visited 100 schools in his native country of Japan) to conduct educational seminars and hands-on demonstrations--and I was lucky enough to be a student at the 100th school on his list.
There is something so warm about Yosh--and his passion for the industry is fascinating, even after all the years and experiences. And there is something so fresh about his approach to cutting hair that I knew he had made a tremendous impact on the students in the seminar, and on me, personally, as well.
“I don’t consider myself particularly talented, but I have learned how to change with time,” Yosh told me when we first met. “In our business, we must learn to change with the season; change is progress, change is our major merchandise. We must be flexible and continuously adapt to what’s new. What we do today is not enough for tomorrow’s clients. Today, we must be better than yesterday; tomorrow, we must be better than today. For us, the most important thing is to learn how to learn. Our future is unlimited with continuous education.”
From his modest beginnings in Kagoshima, Japan, to his first job after beauty school serving as Vidal Sassoon’s assistant (Sassoon’s last assistant while he was working on clients), Yosh established himself as a multi-salon owner in the San Francisco Bay area for 30 years and has more than 50 years of salon work experience.
He has appeared on platforms worldwide and authored three books on his 3-Step Cutting System, including Yosh Toya Hairgraphy—Learn How to Learn, The Yosh Way and Yosh for Hair. A major shear manufacturer created a texturizing shear specifically for him called The Meister. Still, he remains humble, charming and ever approachable; his thirst to learn is equaled only by his talent.
Yosh says his techniques are a marriage through his life experiences and world travels. They're composed of an English foundation, French flair, American practicality and Japanese earnestness. That is, he says, having Sassoon as a base, Jean Louis David's and Horlow's technique of cutting hair with large shears and efficient speed, and countless influences from Maniatis and Bruno Pittini.
1937: Born in Kagoshima Japan
1956: Immigrates to the United States
1962: Begins beauty school
1967: Moves to NYC, works at Vidal Sassoon Salon
1970: Opens Yosh for Hair in San Francisco
1972: Opens second salon
1973: Introduces Redken to Japan as a guest artist
1978: Opens 3rd salon
1981: Opens 4th salon
1984-2011: Wins countless industry "best of" awards.
1999: Sells his salons.
2003: Publishes The Best of Yosh Toya.
2011: Completes 100th tour of US cosmetology schools and wins PBA's Legends Award.
While Yosh spoke to us that day he visited my school, I found myself writing down nearly everything he said--and as the years have passed, I have gathered many of his quotes and "Yosh Sayings."
The most important thing for a person is not being taught, but learning how to learn.
Designing hair is about feeling, rather that theorizing.
The hair styling profession is one in which, depending on the amount of effort you put in, you can display your potential to its fullest.
I want to continue being a "good learner" forever. That is the key in creating hair styles people enjoy.
For those of us in the beauty industry, the most important thing is inspiration. It'd make me happy if I could inspire even one more person today.
One must always have a spirit prepared to choose good things, without being attached to one's own talent. Once you discover that your talent isn't all that special, wisdom from others just keeps flowing in.
A sponge must be squeezed in order to absorb more water. I think the same goes for people.
Education makes people flexible.
Our work is like that of a surfer. You catch the wave too late and you will be wiped out. Catching it too early will cause the same result. You must always be leading the waves.
As long as you are determined to learn, you can open doors to infitie possibilities.
It wasn't long after meeting Yosh that I began to receive postcards from him and his travels around the world. I have cards from Prague, Japan, Bosnia, Uzbekistan, Alaska, Riga and in his hometown of San Francisco.
In the postcards, he and his wife Diane share their magical adventures, written on the back of postcards featuring their smiling faces.
Yosh taught me to not only see a different way of cutting hair, but to witness the beauty in every experience. This is an incredible world we live in--laugh, play in the leaves, fish with the locals and enjoy every moment.