After 48 years in business, barbershop owner in Nago cuts his grandson’s hair for his final customer

After 48 years in business, barbershop owner in Nago cuts his grandson’s hair for his final customer

Kisei Kinjo cutting the hair of his final customer, his grandson Kyoka – October 1, at Kinjo Barber Shop in Miyazato, Nago

October 7, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Hideki Matsudo


Nago – The “Kinjo Riyouten” barbershop in Miyazato, Nago, owned by Kisei Kinjo, finally served its final customer October 1 after 48 years in business. The last person to get their hair cut by Kinjo was his grandson Kyoka, 18. The store, which Kinjo ran with his late-wife Toshiko (who passed away 8 years ago at age 79), as well as Kinjo’s personality, were beloved by the local community. Kinjo said smiling, “I wanted to keep cutting hair until I was 100 years old. There were a lot of good things that came from working earnestly until now.”

Kinjo, who was born and raised in Genka, Nago, had to evacuate his home during the Battle of Okinawa, walking around 35 kilometers with his family to Takae in Higashi Village. They ate plums to stave off hunger during the war, and after it ended, he attended Genka Elementary and Haneji Junior High School, but he didn’t make it into high school.

Disheartened, Kinjo shut himself up at home, but regained some of his spirit taking care of a horse his mother acquired from selling pigs while struggling to make ends-meat. He worked on a U.S. military base for a while as a janitor, he started an apprenticeship at the Tairakawa and Oshiro barber shops at Koz

a Crossroads in Koza (now Okinawa City), then started working as a barber at the Camp Foster and Camp Schwab military bases.

“Since all the soldiers just got buzz cuts with clippers, didn’t use that much English,” he said nostalgically. A haircut cost 25 cents, and hairstyling cost 10 cents. “By offering a variety of services I could make more than I could just cutting hair. However, when the Vietnam War came the marines were all sent to the front lines,” he said, reflecting on the influence of the war.

The year Okinawa was reverted to Japanese control, Kinjo studied hard for two weeks and got his Japanese barber’s license. He bought some land along the road in Miyazato, at the time surrounded by fields, and built what would become his shop and his home. He was blessed with one son, Shigetoshi, 52, and three daughters, Yoshimi, 53, Tomoko, 50, and Fumiko, 47, however, “He worked from eight in the morning until eight at night, so I have almost

Kinjo (left) with his co-workers when he was cutting hair at Camp Schwab – 1969, Henoko, Nago

no recollection of him eating dinner with us on the weekdays,” recalls Yoshimi.

On busy days he could see as many as 30 customers. Around New Years, he “was busy until nine at night giving people new year haircuts.” Sundays the barber shop was closed, and he would take care of his family or work in the fields, but after so many years working on his feet he suffered from lower back pains, and had falls in the store resulting in broken bones, and finally decided to close the barber shop for health reasons.

On October 1, his 86th birthday, his children gathered at the barber shop to say “Thank you for 48 years,” and celebrated with a birthday cake. “One of the charms of this profession is that there is no retirement age. Because I could continue working, I was able to stay healthy all these years,” he said smiling. His final customer, his grandson Kyoka, 18, who is in his final year of high school, said, “I hope you continue to stay healthy.”


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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