Have you ever watched anime and wished that you could rock a style as colorful and wild as the characters in Japanese animation? Your chance has arrived! Located in Akihabara, the heart of Japan’s otaku subculture, is a unique hair salon like none other in the world: OFF-KAi!! a hair salon that transforms customers into their favorite anime, manga, or game characters! LIVE JAPAN took a visit to see what it’s all about and to try out their services!
What is “OFF-KAi!!”?
The name of the salon comes from a somewhat recent Japanese slang term that refers to the act of meeting an online friend in real life, or an offline (‘off’) meet (‘kai’/会). The term is especially used within the Japanese otaku community, who tend to develop friendships online, bonding over a shared interest in their hobby of choice. Not all online friends will meet in person, but when they do, it is called an “off-kai.”
It is from this concept that the hair salon OFF-KAi!! took their name; an offline meeting between fellow otaku, and also the melding of the anime world and real life.
The Man Behind the Scissors: OFFKAi!!’s Creator
OFF-KAi!! opened their doors in October 2016 in Akihabara, nicknamed Akiba, the district known for its vibrant otaku culture: from manga merchandise, electronics shops and massive game arcades, to maid cafes and idol theaters, Akiba is a paradise for otaku of all kinds. The salon was the brainchild of Kenta Mogi, who has been in the hair industry since he was 20, when he began working in a high profile salon in Tokyo’s Jiyugaoka neighborhood. At 25, he began working independently, and in 2012, he entered a salon in Akihabara, where he further honed his craft, all the while making invaluable business connections. Four years later, he achieved his dream of opening an anime-inspired hair salon, and OFF-KAi!! burst onto the scene!
Despite being a relatively, new salon, OFF-KAi!! is steadily booked. Their success is not only due to being perhaps, the first salon featuring this concept, but also to the fact that the owner and the staff are all anime fans themselves. It is truly a place by anime fans, for anime fans. The salon even has its own original character Marwishka Offka (マルィシュカ・オフカ) designed by illustrator Misaki Kurehito. Look closely at Marwishka’s pouch and you’ll notice it’s stocked with tools of the hairdressing trade, and of course, she has a manga-worthy hairstyle of waist-length, indigo-tipped locks.
I took a visit to OFF-KAi!! to check it out for myself, and see if they could upgrade my current lacklustre hairstyle into something fit for an anime character. Through the doors of the simple wood exterior is a salon like none other: Walls are covered in anime artwork, and bookshelves full of the Japanese comic books known as manga are on display. All of the music played in the salon is from either anime or videogames, a mixture of recent hits and nostalgic old school favorites. The atmosphere is bright and cheerful, but also very comfortable.
Choosing a Style
I met my stylist for the day, Yoshiki Osanai, who helped me choose a look. I decided on getting some colorful highlights to brighten up my completely dark hair. Because I had used dark brown dye in the recent past, I asked if it would really be possible to achieve the look I was going for. I actually wasn’t sure if it could be lightened all, but I was assured that it could be done, and was shown a book featuring a rainbow of dye colors. While my hair in its current condition would not be able to take some of the lightest colors, Yoshiki selected several colors he believed would best suit me and my hair. After some more consultation I decided on either a magenta pink, or a vibrant red. Since most of my hair was nearly black to begin with, Yoshiki suggested the red for a look inspired by the Ryuko Matoi character from Kill la Kill, and I was convinced. It was decided!
Make Yourself at Home!
Japan is known for placing a high priority on customer service, and hair salons are no exception. OFF-KAi!! is particularly welcoming to anime fans, offering the latest anime magazines, in addition to what must be hundreds of manga to choose from. While waiting during the initial bleaching treatment, I was even served a hot coffee. As I set my cup down, I noticed that taped to the table in front of me was a schedule of the current season’s TV anime broadcasts, something that anime fans are sure to appreciate.
The Staff Behind OFF-KAi!!
I had plenty of time to relax, and during bleaching and coloring treatments, I also had the chance to ask my stylist a few questions and learn more about the staff and the customers of the salon. A native of snowy Aomori in northern Japan, Yoshiki moved to Tokyo with his sights set on becoming a hairstylist. Like the owner of OFF-KAi!!, he too has a great love of anime, his favorite being the Love Live! series. Working at OFF-KAi!! has given him the chance to combine two of his life’s passions. I asked about some of his personal favorite anime hairstyles, and once again, Love Live! was the winner! He said that while the main character from Yu-Gi-Oh! has a cool hairstyle, it would be pretty tricky (maybe impossible) to replicate its crazy colors and shape in real life!
I was also curious to know what kind of clients visit on a daily basis. Unlike most salons I have visited in the past, it turns out that men, rather than women, are the primary customers here. And of course, just about all of the people that come to the salon tend to have an interest in anime or otaku culture. I was surprised to learn that although the salon is quite new, word has already spread to the international otaku community, and there have already been many non-Japanese customers who have visited! Some of the popular color requests in general are shades of green and red.
After careful work from my stylist, a final wash, and blow dry, it was time to see the result. It was a brighter red than I even thought was possible on my hair! In the past I have had some bad luck at a few different salons, but OFF-KAi!! did just what they promised: give me an anime-inspired look perfect for strolling Akihabara. I felt transformed into something of a real life manga character, without having to battle a single villain or having to search for any mystical items!
How to Become an Anime Character at OFF-KAi!!
Want to get your own anime hairstyle? You can make an appointment at OFF-KAi!! via their smartphone app. The salon is open Wednesdays - Mondays, from 12:00 p.m. until 10:00 pm (last appointment start time is 9:00 p.m.), closed only on Tuesdays.
OFF-KAi!! can be easily accessed from two stations: It is a three minute walk from Suehirocho Station, and a ten minute walk from Akihabara Station. If you find yourself in a neighborhood dotted with maid cafes and ramen shops, you are probably in the right place!
- Address 3-6-6fukubu Bld.1F, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0021, Japan