Expert Advice

Praying to the Scissor God and Other Tokyo Treasures

Alison Alhamed | October 18, 2013 | 5:07 AM
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Alison Shipley with Jill Kohler outside of the sushi-making class.
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Photobooth fun with Pivot Point, Xenon, Penrose and Federico.
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Many young women have a thick, blunt fringe in Tokyo.
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This bleach blonde look is very popular in Harajuku. We saw lots of coppers, blondes and peach coloring.
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Enjoying Tokyo yummies.
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Pivot Point CEO Robert Passage, Jane Yamano of Yamano Beauty College, Alison Shipley of MODERN next to the Scissor God statue.
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Tokyo Tower.
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A view from Tokyo Tower.
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Before entering the shrine, we learned how to purify our hands. Rinse left, rinse right, scoop water to mouth with left, rinse left, rinse handle.
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After a long plane ride across the Pacific Ocean, Pivot Point-member school students from schools across the U.S. have joined together in Japan to explore the beauty and style of Tokyo: Pivot Point International's three Chicago-land academies, Penrose Academy of Scottsdale, Arizona, California's Federico Beauty Institute and Xenon International. As a proud graduate of Pivot Point International, I am so honored and excited to be a part of this incredible experience!

The beginning of the study abroad trip is designed to give us visitors a glimpse into Tokyo's every day beauty: from the incredible natural wonders and forests, to the delicacies of dining, onto the man-made structures Tokyo is best known for, and a look at the fashion-fueled shoppers that line the streets of Harajuku. As the trip progresses, each lesson from each stop along the way is realized when the hands-on education begins at the Yamano Beauty College.

Today was day one--and it began with a motorcoach tour of Tokyo, where we were immersed in the beauty of nature through a guided tour of the Meiji Shrine, hidden inside a lush forest in the middle of an incredibly busy city. We learned bits of the country's history--how it is a story of continual reinvention as Tokyo was nearly destroyed by bombs and fires during World War II, and earthquakes at other times. But Tokyo ALWAYS rebuilds itself and today, it's one of the world's main economic centers and is Japan's most populous area. The business of Tokyo is business, we learned, but you can still find small-scale gardens on backstreets (around the corner from neon and concrete you may find the bonsai-lined courtyard of a traditional inn).

After the tour, we led into one of the day's biggest highlights: A sushi-making class at the Japan International Sushi School.

Much like the art of hairdressing, sushi chefs must practice extreme discipline. It takes years of training and apprenticeships to become a professional--working alongside the masters, studying their movements, tension, skill and expertise.

Though we got a glimpse into the world of sushi-making, we barely scratched the surface. Imagine your first day in beauty school and being asked to cut a bob. Certainly it would be full of imperfections! But it would still be fun to be given the opportunity!

After we learned from some of Tokyo's best sushi chefs, we got to eat our creations! It was delicious. Many discovered that their methodical skills of dexterity transfered well to the art and creation of sushi, while others (ahem ahem) not so much.

After lunch, our group made our way to the Tokyo Tower. At 1,000 feet tall, the observation deck offered incredible views of the city. We made a quick stop at the Zojoji Temple, where we were met by Jane Yamano, whose family founded the Yamano beauty empire in Japan (which includes the Yamano beauty supply company, a make-up division, a kimono company, multiple salons and day spas, and academies for esthetics and cosmetology). We will see Jane again later in the week when we visit her beauty schools for education.

Jane walked our group over to the Hasami Kannon--the "Scissor God" statue that is considered sacrid by professionals who work with shears (hairdressers, seamstresses, tailors) as it is designed to offer prosperous career.

In Japanese, scissors are called "Hasami," which when written out looks like the digits "8" and "3," so every August 3, at 3pm, there is a holiday of sorts at the statue where hair professionals are celebrated. They bring their shears, receive blessings, and can get their tools sharpened and cleaned to celebrate, as well!

One of the best parts of the day was splitting into smaller groups to explore the Harajuku district of the city. Harajuku is the area around Tokyo's Harajuku Station and is the center of Japan's young adult culture and style. The street that is considered the heart of the area is Takeshita Street--packed with shops filled with colorful clothing, bright accessories, hair extensions and funky shoes. The shoppers who local the area have fantastic style and eccentric fashion! Our group loved snapping pics--imagine the streets filled with the most stylish street fashion bloggers you've seen--and multiply it by 20. THAT's what it's like in Harajuku!

Follow our trip--we can't wait to head to the Yamano schools for hands-on education and inspiration! On Instagram and Twitter, use #beautiesabroad to check out our adventures.

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