While nail art might seem like a recent phenomenon, in Japan its history goes back to the Heian period (794-1185) when girls would color their nails to beautify themselves. Today there are nail art salons scattered throughout the country with highly-skilled technicians who will transform your hands or feet into works of art.
Many Japanese visit nail salons on a regular basis, changing the artwork on their nails for special occasions or in celebration of different seasons. Designs range from subtle diamanté additions to intricate 3D creations and detailed portraits. Most opt for gel nails which harden under UV or LED lights, making them incredibly hard to crack or tarnish for those leading busy lifestyles.
For tourists in Japan, visiting a nail art salon is a unique cultural experience, allowing you an insight into the trendsetting fashion lifestyle of young Japanese people. While some nail art salons specialize in specific designs, it’s really only limited by your imagination and you can work with your technician to create exactly what you want.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are five of Tokyo’s most popular nail art salons with English-speaking staff.
Offering everything from basic French nails to recreating your own designs in intricate detail. Joli is an American-owned nail salon in Tokyo’s Shirokane district. The talented English-speaking staff can do perfect portraits of loved ones or your pet and even your favorite anime characters. There’s also a spacious playroom and on-site childcare service so parents can relax while being pampered.
Opening hours: 11 am to 8 pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 10 am to 6.30pm (Saturdays and Sundays) and closed Mondays.
Cost: From 4,320JPY per hand-painted nail
Address: 3-10-9, Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo
With more than 20 branches in Tokyo (and 50 more around Japan), Nail Quick has become one of the country’s most popular nail salons and has a good reputation amongst expats for its English-speaking staff. Their concept is “keeping nails healthy while making them beautiful”, using a house-made parfait gel to achieve that ideal. Their nail artists all go through extensive training and will help you come up with a design that is exclusively yours.
Opening hours: 11 am to 8 pm daily
Cost: From 2,400JPY to 11,500JPY
Address: 25-4 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Etars Nail Salon
Art enthusiasts should head straight to Etars Nail Salon which is situated on a quiet backstreet in Nakameguro. This rustic and slightly quirky nail salon does unbelievable recreations of real-life masterpieces, including the works of Van Gogh, Monet, and Klimt. They offer a range of art books you can peruse if you’re not quite sure of what you want, as well as a choice of accessories for sale to complement your new nail art.
Opening hours: 12 pm to 8 pm daily
Cost: From 7,500JPY
Address: 2-43-4 Kamimeguro, Meguro-Ku, Tokyo
Located in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, Disco Nail is one of the city’s most popular nail salons, run by designer Nagisa Kaneko. They draw on vintage, surreal and sometimes goth-inspired motifs. Their artists are quick and talented in building up layers of intricate paintings and creative embellishments. Disco’s nail art charges depending on the amount of time spent on your nails, with bookings made via a contact form on their website. Nagisa also speaks English, helping to ease any translation hurdles you might have.
Opening hours: 11 am to 9 pm (Monday to Saturday) and 11 am to 8 pm (Sundays)
Cost: 9,450JPY for one hour
Address: 1-14-9, Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Anime lovers can pay tribute to their favorite characters at Coco Colors in the heart of Akihabara. It’s widely popular with otaku and a great place to meet other anime fans and find out about what’s happening in the local scene. You can request other designs not associated with anime, however, as well as opt for 3D nail art.
Opening hours: 10 am to 9 pm daily
Cost: 1,100JPY for ten minutes
Address: 6F AKB426 Bldg, 4-2-6 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo