On my way home…

It was a gorgeous night with little humidity, brisk wind, and no precipitation at all. So I tested my luck today and tried walking home from downtown Toronto. Starting off from Varsity Arena at St. George and Bloor, I made the trek slowly but surely along Bloor street heading towards the Danforth area. It was interesting as it had been a while since my last walk along Bloor street. Stores had changed, lots of construction disrupted traffic, and the sidewalks were bustling with pedestrians even at 9:30pm.

As I walked along the bridge towards the Danforth, I noticed some shops that caught my attention. Before I knew it, I was sidetracked from going home, and ended up walking along the Danforth admiring the many natural and healthy product related stores that lined the street.

There were an abundance of stores selling “holistic” products, organic foods, health shops, and a trickle gourmet food shops to top the list. I began to enjoy the area for what it was all about. It was really my first time absorbing the shops along the Danforth since moving into the area. At that time, I thought about what a great choice I made. 😉

Eventually making my way home, I admired the homely homes lining the streets, the quiet neighbourhood, and the safe haven that this place seems to be.

All in all, it must have taken me about an hour and a half to walk back. So be it. As long as I enjoyed the walk and found some choice places to dine and shop in, it was worth the time.

Hiro at Toni & Guy

Toni & Guy Hairdressing
180 Bloor Street West

Art Director II: Hiro Hayashi

Out of pure curiosity – and maybe a little bit of peer pressure – I decided to splurge on myself and got a $50 haircut today. For those that have seen me recently, they have often commented on how I look so different but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was. It was indeed my hair and its not-so-short length that many people were not used to.

It’s been close to two or maybe even three months before I got my last haircut. For reasons that I cannot even explain right now, I just never bothered to get a haircut for a long period of time. Maybe it was just the curiosity in me that wondered what I would look like with longer hair, or maybe it was done out of pure laziness. I keep thinking to myself it was the latter.

Regardless, it was long enough to the point where I thought I should get it cut. Finally.

Recently, my brother had his hair cut at Toni & Guy on Bloor Street. However rather than going to just anybody, he made it a point to go to a Japanese hair stylist, thinking a Japanese would know how to handle Japanese hair. He saw the ad in the local Japanese newspaper (Bits) and cut out the 15% coupon. He went, and was fully satisfied with the results.

While I’ve always known of the place, I never actually thought I would go to such a place just to treat my hair. But today was different. There was something in the air as I phoned to make a reservation for the one that is known by “Hiro.” What should I expect from a guy who’s titled Art Director II on his business card?

I walk into 180 Bloor Street West with impeccable timing as I placed my wet umbrella in their Umbra waste basket sitting right by the entrance. I look around and see that the place is almost empty safe the cleaner and the receptionist. As I walk towards the receptionist, she greets me with a smile and asks, “you’re here for Hiro, right?” As I acknowledge, I see over to my right a customer giving his thanks to a Japanese looking guy who much to my surprise looked more like a Lonestar from the West.

I’ll explain this in a moment. After I checked in, the receptionist politely asks if I wanted some water, tea, or coffee. Seriously? I thought to myself. She may have caught my slight panting from running in the rain a moment ago, or maybe it was customary to do so. In any case, I accepted her offer in getting a glass of water. It was cold. It was refreshing. It was a nice gesture.

She offered to take my jacket, and at the same time handed me a cover for my shirt and smoothly told me how to wear it and tie it with the strings on the side. As I drank my water, I waited for a mere 2 minutes or so until I see that Lonestar from the West approach me, only now he seemed more like a regular Japanese guy with some nicely styled hair on his shoulders. He motioned me to sit in a chair. As I did, he asks me in Japanese, how I would like my hair cut this evening. I responded, in Japanese, that it’s been a while since I had this much long hair and that I wanted to do something different than the typical cut, but nothing too wild.

He understood me exactly and quickly started to explain to me what he would do with my hair: trim about a half inch throughout, giving some texture all around, thinning it here and there, and leaving the back a natural look so that when my hair grows, it still looks even throughout. He’ll leave the bangs with a slight trim, and leave the sideburns safe for some rough styling to it.

I agreed with his plan thinking this would work for me. He then motioned me to get up from the chair and pointed to the back where the line of seats rested in the washing section. I sat down and another person came and started to shampoo my hair. Asking me if the water was an OK temperature and if my head rest was fine, he was very attentive to my needs.

After a thorough shampoo, a little scalp massage – or conditioning I would imagined that stage to have been – he dried my hair and I was then scooted off to yet a different set of chairs where he readied me with more coverings over my shirt. As a final touch, they put over your shoulders a heavy rubber mat like weight so that the coverings are firm to your body. A nice thing to have, and a first that I’ve seen in any hair salon.

Not too long afterwards, I see Hiro approaching me yet again. Only this time, he was the Lonestar from the West, complete with his belt and carrying pack of scissors and accessories. He walked towards me with gusto and confidence as if he was ready to conquer one last set of hair before calling it a day.

He comes and he quickly starts doing his magic.

Do you ever sense an awkward silence when you’re at a hair salon, not knowing what to talk about or if you should even think of striking a conversation? Well, before I knew it, he asked me whether I was born here in Canada. I’ve been asked this many times, and to everybody’s surprise, I like to tell that that I was in fact born in Tokyo, Japan. I moved when I was a mere 3 months, however, and therefore I grew up here in Canada.

We talked about myself, him (he’s from Nagoya), the Toni & Guy chain of stores, and how this particular store was not listed on the website and that I got confused with this location and the one in Yorkville. I told him I watch Japanese dramas to try and maintain my level of Japanese and he told me I should be watching more variety shows than anything else. The speed at which the conversation flows is much faster in the latter, providing for a better learning experience, says Hiro. He told me he started watching Friends to learn English when he first came to Toronto four years ago.

I paid close attention as he cut, trimmed, thinned, and styled my hair. He was very attentive to my needs. Before I knew it, he was showing me the back of my head with the mirror, asking me if that was OK. Sure enough, it was OK.

It actually didn’t look like he cut much off, but in reality he cut a lot of it away by thinning my hair down in strategic locations. While it looks like I may have a volumous set of hair, I actually feel the difference, and its quite drastic. After I approved of the back, he took the covering off of me and then told me to head back to the showering units where I would get a quick rinse to wash the stray hairs away.

Wow, I thought. Another wash! What service! And then it occurred to me at that point. This place was made so that I could walk in, and walk back out with a completely new hair style and still enjoy the rest of the day without having to go back home and take a shower!

With my hair being so rough and straight, every time – and I mean EVERY time – I get a hair cut, I always have to go back home and shower before heading back out since my hair goes everywhere, in my shirt, on my shirt, in my ears, and all over my neck and elsewhere. It’s not a pretty site afterwards, but Toni & Guy makes sure you are more than ready to hit the town right after stepping out of their store.

After a quick rinse, I was again ushered back to the hair cutting seat where he did his final trimmings and made sure everything was cut to the right length. He then explained to me the style he chose to do on my hair, how to go about styling it with some light creme, and that I should always start from the top of my head, move outwards, and then to the back, and finally with the left over creme in my hands, gently style my bangs ever-so-lightly so that the bangs don’t get too greased up.

I nodded and then it was done. Heading back to the cashier, Hiro shows me the set of cremes he used on my hair as I had inquired about it beforehand. He asked me if I wanted it, and at that point while I should have just said “no,” I reacted instinctively and said, “sure” instead. Thinking it was going to be another $20 or so, I should have simply touched my hair to see what the creme would do to my hair. But not thinking at all, I merely agreed and she punched it in for me.

Hiro explained to me that since I was referred from my brother, I was entitled to 15% off and my brother was entitled to 15% on his next visit as well. And should I refer someone else to him, I would be entitled to 15% off my next visit as well. So for anybody wanting to go get a cut at Toni & Guy’s hair stylists on 180 Bloor Street West, make sure you tell them that Taku referred you, and you’ll get your 15% off.

So was I satisfied with the results? I would say so. The cut is different, still lengthier than my typical cuts but just as light as it was back in the summer. It’s a good change for me I suppose – assuming I style it correctly every morning. Was the cut itself worth $53 plus taxes? Well, considering the treatment I got from everybody there, I would say it wasn’t all that bad. Granted I could have done without the added midas touches, but that’s what they are known for, and that’s what you are paying for. And surely after 31 years, I deserve to give my hair some royal treatment, don’t I?

Hiro was quite professional, friendly, attentive to my needs, and was overall a very cool guy to talk to. Not bad, not bad at all. Will I go back to him? Well, let’s see how long this hair style lasts first!

Reel Asian Film Festival is calling me…

So I’ve been asked to volunteer as a photographer for the Real Asian Film Festival once again. I did it last year for its big 10th anniversary year and I have to say, it was a fun time. Running around with camera in hand, taking pictures of guests, directors, producers, industry experts and the like. I found it not only exciting, but at the same renewed my interest in photography as a hobby as I enjoyed my time doing so. Having an all access pass adds to the perks I suppose.

Now in its 11th year, I don’t know what to expect but the lineup of films seem pretty interesting, so I gather it won’t be a bad year. I haven’t gone shooting for a long time now. I’ve been missing in action I suppose you can say. So this opportunity may be a good chance to get into that paparazzi feeling as I snap away.

Let the fun begin!

Well, in two weeks’ time at least!