I’ve only gotten my nails done in Japan a handful of times but it’s very different from nail salons in the US so I wanted to share my experience. While I was in Osaka, I visited Nail Crea in Shinsaibashi. There is no shortage of good nail salons in Japan, so it can definitely be hard to choose! Unlike in America, you generally have to make an appointment at salons here. This can be a bit daunting if you don’t speak fluent Japanese. I studied Japanese for 3 years in college but I definitely did not learn the vocabulary that’s relevant to getting nails done, so Google translate has been infinitely helpful. That being said, it can still be a bit confusing since they operate a bit differently here.
Here are some basic words that will help you in searching for info, making an appointment, and at the salon:
This is what they call acrylic nails. I know some salons in the US do sculpted acrylic nails too, so you may be familiar with it.
Gel is pretty much the same as gel that you will find elsewhere. In my experience the brands of gel used in Japanese shops has been much more durable and higher quality than the ones I’ve had done in the US.
This means taking existing nails off. If you’re making an appointment you usually have to let them know if you have your nails done already so they can book time for changing or removing your previous nails.
Nail: ネイル/Nail Art: ネイルアート
Useful for searching for nail art online.
Long: 長い (ながい/nagai)
Short: 短い (みじかい/mijikai)
If you’re not sure where you want to get your nails done, I’d recommend searching online for a place to go. Using Google maps and searching for ネイル will turn up results in close proximity, from there you can check out their websites to see what they offer. I was specifically searching for a place that would do acrylic nails so I ended up googling スカルプ with the name of location I was staying and that’s how I found Nail Crea. Once I found the salon, I saw that they use a booking site that has tons of other salons on it called Hot Pepper Beauty, which makes it very easy to search for a salon! When I needed to find a new salon in Tokyo, I used Hot Pepper Beauty to search for salons that specialized in sculpted nails near Shinjuku. Since there are so many amazing nail salons, it really helped narrow down the results.
Like many places in Japan, salons offer different “Courses” at different prices. The may vary based on if it’s your first visit, if you want gel or sculp nails, and how much nail art you want. If you book via Hot Pepper Beauty, you can choose a set of nails that you want before you go so you’ll know the exact price ahead of time. Sometimes the salon will allow a certain number of changes to the selected set as well so you can customize the colors.
I’ve found that salons have a much larger selection to choose from when you look in person versus online. Although some courses will limit what you can pick to a smaller selection since it’s based on price. I’ve even seen salons that do cheaper sets if the nail artist picks the design from a set selection of new styles (so it’s sort of random). If you’ve made an appointment and didn’t pick a specific set online, they will give you books or samples to look through when you arrive.
The first set of nails I got done was a fill with gel artwork done on top. Not all salons will do a fill if you aren’t a member there (meaning: you’ve visited them more than once), or if they didn’t do your previous set of nails. I had plain acrylic nails that I had got done at the US and my nail tech offered to do a fill so I said yes. I wore these nails for 3 weeks before getting a new set done. The sides of 2 nails had started to lift but none came off.
Since a few nails were lifting, I decided to go with a new set of sculp nails. I had never gotten nails like this done in the US, so I learned a lot about it! These are the kind where they wrap a sticker around you finger and sculpt the acrylic onto your nail, rather than using a glued on tip. The nails salons in Japan have a large variety of colors to choose from. The glitter on these nails is actually the acrylic nail. There’s no polish used at all except for a clear top coat to protect the deco pieces on top. I love how clean the underside looks compared to the acrylic nails done on top of a plastic tip!
I hope if you visit Japan, you will try out one of the nail salons while you’re here! I’d love to do more posts about nail salons so let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to know still.